One of the blogs I follow, The Journal of Education Controversy blog, has an interesting YouTube on the state of discipline in schools and how special populations are being removed from the school system and into the juvenile detention/prison system:

This new national trend reflects racial biases, new zero-tolrance rules about disciplinary problems in schools, and may reflect a trend in removing students who perform poorly on standardized test in the era of high-stakes testing.

While my understanding from reading your blog posts and talking with attendees is that Rafe Esquith’s presentation on Monday night was great, I also heard about part of his presentation that troubled me.

Apparently, Esquith relates a story about bringing the Hobart Shakespeareans to the Empire State Building, and he leaves the group alone to do some task. He has cultivated politeness in his students, so they stand off to the side being well-behaved when they are approached by the ticket-taker who questions the children about their quietness and asks them what kinds of video games they like to play and the like.

The students respond that they don’t play video games, and the ticket-taker tells them they need to behave more like children, or something to that effect. Esquith, meanwhile, has overheard the conversation, and it gives him pause. He asks the students what they prefer: to play and behave like children or to behave politely as he instructs them, making sacrifices to do the things they do.

One of the students responds that they are happy to do what they do, and after all, that person was only a ticket-taker, and they did not want to end up like that.

When I heard this anecdote, I was admittedly shocked by the elitism cultivated in Esquith’s student(s). While I think Esquith’s achievements are grand, I also believe in the value of “regular” jobs, and don’t really buy into the prestige value of one job over another. That is to say, I’ve known restaurant bussers and dishwashers who work just as hard as, say, the president of the United States or teachers who work just as hard as, say, an NFL quarterback. The celebrity or salary of one versus another really doesn’t mean anything to me. In the scheme of things, each person might be said to fill their role equally well. I would never consciously cultivate that kind of attitude in students, especially if I knew they were “watching me all the time and needed a model.”

I’ve worked in plenty of low-status jobs in the retail and service sectors, and plenty of people have treated me (I hope unwittingly, but often suspected otherwise) like dirt. “He’s just a waiter,” they would say.  Or worse, they would try to take advantage of the server-customer social contract, complaining to take advantage of me because “the customer is always right,” expecting servers to be too stupid to see through their schemes and deceptions.

Too, despite our country’s alleged high valuation for education, there is also the adage “those who can’t do, teach,” implying, of course, that if teachers could do anything deemed valuable by US society (i.e. make money, accrue power, and buy stuff), then we would give up teaching to do it in a heartbeat. To me, this reveals a not-so-subtle conflict of interest between what we say we value and what we practice in truth.

This conflict of interest is not dissimilar from the attitude Esquith seems to be cultivating in his students and himself. He seems, in videos I’ve seen, to portray himself as a humble everyman, but egotistically tout every accomplishment and award. I’m not sure that dismissing the ticket-taker is reflective of the kind of values teachers should inspire in students, no matter how high their students’ test scores are or how brilliantly they can capture the emotions of MacBeth on the stage.

Did anyone else who attend take issue with this anecdote?

Directions: Copy and paste this questionnaire into a new Word document or blog post.  Please answer the following questions as honestly and in as much detail as possible.  Your thoughts and suggestions will aid me as I revise the course to teach it again.

1)      What was your favorite project?  Explain why.

2)      What was your least favorite project?  Explain why.

3)      Do you have any suggestions regarding peer response?  Would you change anything about peer response?

4)      Do you feel like you were given too much time to work on projects?  Too little time? Explain your answer.

5)      What are your thoughts about breaking each project up into multiple drafts or phases?  Did it help to have drafts or would you just have preferred to turn in one draft – the final-for-now?

6)      What are your thoughts about the pacing of the semester?  Were there any projects that felt too short?  Too long?

7)      Do you think you were given enough time to work on your final portfolio? Explain.

8)      Do you feel like I provided too many comments on drafts or not enough comments?   Were my comments helpful? Why or why not?

9)      What about the course would you change?  Do you have any suggestions for change as I revise the course to teach it again?

10)    Do you feel like this class helped you to be better able to read and compose texts, both in college and in the real world? Explain your answer.

11)   Please offer some advice or helpful hints for students taking this course in the future.


I often use writing samples from past students as models in my classroom.  Please check one of the boxes and type in your name and today’s date below:

__ I give you permission to use writing samples from my English 101 portfolio

__  I do not give you permission to use writing samples from my English 101 portfolio

Print Name:­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­                                                                                                                       Date:


Read the NYT article.

Rafe Esquith, a noted teacher and author of Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire, will be speaking on Monday, November 16, 2009 at 7 pm in Braden Auditorium.

I have class on Monday evening and will be unable to attend, but I am willing to offer a five-blog posting make up (in other words, this one post will count for five that you may have missed) for attending and writing up a good, 300-500 word reflection on Esquith’s talk. I basically want to attend vicariously through all of you…

Some Rafe Esquith links:

I want to clarify a question I’ve been getting about the portfolio. The synthesis revision should be included in the multigenre remix. You can also include earlier versions of either project 1 or project 2 or both, if you feel they are your best work.

When reviewing, examining and assessing a portfolio, specifically a multigenre portfolio including meta-writing, I find it useful to use the following criteria, so I thought I would include some of the questions I ask myself when assessing texts as published products:

  • Conceptual Core: What is at the center of your writing and your portfolio? What is the essence of the work you’ve done? What is the topic and purpose?
  • Specificity/Creativity/Originality: What makes your writing unique and uniquely yours? Are you specific?
  • Completeness/Cleanliness/Attention to Detail: Does your portfolio fulfill the requirements of the assignment? Is your portfolio manuscript clean and neatly produced? Does the manuscript “sweat the details” and take care of the little things?
  • Audience: In your estimation, who is your writing for, both real and imaginary groups? Who is your ideal reader, the single person who may be the perfect person to read your work? Why?
  • Research/Credibility: How well have you supplemented your work with research (I consider research to mean not only supplementing your work with the facts and quotes of others but also having self-awareness and doing reflective thinking)?
  • Genre(s): How does your writing fit with conventions of the genre(s) you write in?
  • Arrangement (form/content): What arrangement method(s) did you use? How does the arrangement enhance the conceptual core and purpose of your portfolio?
  • Forum: How have you chosen to present the work to the reader and why did you choose this method? For example, did you print out a manuscript in MS Word? Did you create a book, chapbook, or fascicle? Did you publish your work as a blog? Did you take a risk and make something outside the box like an audio recording? A video?
  • Context: What kinds of relevant experiences and encounters with people and texts influenced your collection, either positively or negatively (i.e. what’s going on in your life, either locally or globally, that you feel affected this collection during its creation or over the course of the semester)?
  • Revision/Changes: What texts have changed? How have they changed? Why did you revise them in the manner you did?
  • Acknowledgements: Did anyone play a role in creating your collection that needs mentioning?