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If you haven’t already read Michael Roth’s op ed “Learning as Freedom” from last Thursday’s (Sept. 6) New York Times, you should.  And not just because he draws heavily on John Dewey (my inner historian is completely geeking out), but because it’s about wanting a broader vision for students and learning – and because what he describes about ” . . . develop[ing] habits of mind that allow students to keep learning, even as they acquire skills to get things done” is not just food for thought for higher ed, but offers much for the debate about where and how best to employ testing and other mandates vs authentic and more interactive teaching and learning: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/opinion/john-deweys-vision-of-learning-as-freedom.html?_r=1

And if you’re really brave, I highly recommend taking on Dewey yourself, if you haven’t already.  Perhaps Chapter 5 “The Nature of Freedom” from Experience and Education.  Yeah, it was published in 1938 – but guaranteed, the argument resonates in the here and now.

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Hello All!  It’s been far too long, we know, but back to school season has reminded us to say hello and wish everyone involved with schools in some fashion an excellent start to the academic year.

The season is also a great time to find new inspiration – particularly given the deep budget cuts affecting public education – so we’d like to share a gem that reminds us of all that is possible with determination, energy and a lot of sheer will.  Please meet our friends at The Sustainability Workshop:    http://www.workshopschool.org/

My friend Matt along with some excellent colleagues, founded this project-based school in Philadelphia, with the cooperation of the school district.  The school is featured in a recent CNN piece that you can link to on the website.  It’s amazing work that says a lot about what can be done when centrally focused on effective resources that make a school work for the kids, and when a group is driven to hold to a truly broader vision of the educational experience and potential for urban students.  The small size and personalization of the school program (cooperatively designed by teachers and students) also provides a lot of food for thought about large urban high schools vs small schools and more individualized learning.  It’s also not a little refreshing that the school, the kids and their teachers are centrally highlighted in all informational media; as you move through the Workshop’s website, you feel like you get to know them and their work.  The focus on the students serves as a crucial reminder that in the end, regardless of the size of the school or who is involved with the school program, that school space is where “it” happens and therefore that space needs to be nurtured – carefully and deliberately.

So go take a look and get inspired – and to our friends at the Workshop:  ¡Bravo! and best wishes for an incredible year!

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Teaching Harry Potter has been out for a few months now in hardcover format. The hardcover is beautiful, but pretty expensive, especially for those on a teacher or student budget (exactly the people we hope will read it!) We’d like to encourage Palgrave MacMillan to release the book in paperback and ebook form ASAP so that more people can join the conversation.

If you would like to see the book in paperback/electronic form, especially if you’re a teacher or professor who would use it in a class, we hope you’ll consider sending a letter of support to our editor, Burke Gerstenschlager (Burke.Gerstenschlager@palgrave-usa.com). Let him know who you are, why you’d like to read Teaching Harry Potter in paperback or electronic form, and who you’d share it with (students, colleagues, etc.)

Thanks in advance for your help!

Recently, our Twitter Goddess linked Teaching Harry to a short article on the Huffington Post listing the top 5 reasons for increased teacher turnover:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/11/top-5-reasons-why-teacher_n_924428.html

In short order, they list burnout, threat of layoffs, low wages, testing pressures and poor working conditions.  A familiar cast of characters, each actually gets a mention at some point in Teaching Harry Potter.  It’s also a list that comes home hard in August for many educators because it’s the time when many of those who have been laid off find out whether or not they’ll actually be able to return to their job in the fall, and if so, under what conditions.  I’ve been on both ends of this process – being laid off and doing the waiting while trying to hire people back, and neither is pretty, albeit for very different reasons.

But the common thread in both of these was the desire to protect the school and my – our – kids.  As a young teacher I wanted to keep working where I was teaching, to be able to see my students the next year and support them as they continued to grow; now I want to be able to hire only the best and brightest teachers to work with the kids at our school.  But the situation is just not that simple and it’s made for a very long, complicated summer, for everyone.  I’ve taken a lot of Advil the past couple of months, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

So, since I’m a little geeky, and this is after all, Teaching Harry, I will admit to having a crazy a-ha moment when my family and I went to see Deathly Hallows Pt 2 again (because c’mon, you’ve gotta see it in IMAX) and Aberforth used an incredibly powerful Patronus charm to defend Hogwarts from hundreds of charging Death Eaters.  I might be overly tired, but I thought THAT’S WHAT I NEED!!!

Like I said, it’s been a long summer.

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People send us a lot of cool Potter and school related stuff, which is awesome (thank you!).  And given that we all need to keep our sense of humor while we’re thinking BIG THOUGHTS, this stuff was definitely meant to be shared, so here goes.  This one comes courtesy of my excellent brother.   There’s so much in here (and not even going the race/class/gender/nationalism route) – well, you’ll see.

This way to Harry Potter and the Filler of Big:

http://www.11points.com/Books/11_Amazing_Fake_%27Harry_Potter%27_Books_Written_In_China

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If you wanted to contribute to the appendix but didn’t make the Aug. 6 deadline, don’t worry–we’re still taking submissions! Send us 200-ish words about how you have used Harry Potter with your students. We welcome submissions from classroom teachers, administrators, librarians, college professors, home school parents, after school program teachers…everyone and anyone using Harry Potter in an educational setting is welcome to contribute!

You can email your submissions (or questions about submissions) to us at cathy@teachingharry.com or becky@teachingharry.com.

Did you know that Teaching Harry tweets important news that falls at the intersection of education policy, teaching, popular culture, and technology? Did you know that we have a Facebook page? Look to your left! Now you can follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook faster than you can say “Wingardium Leviosa” (with the correct pronunciation, of course.)

We’ve also gotten the Hogwarts Faculty Lounge back online–stop by to chat with other educators interested in Harry Potter! Take off that invisibility cloak and introduce yourself in the welcome thread.

We hope we’ll see you around often!

On the Infinitus website, the conference organizers have posted a mention of the high number of presenters talking about education – something Becky and I noticed when the schedule was posted.   They’ve also posted a brief quiz about the Potter teachers:

HP as a Teacher’s Teaching Tool:  which character best represents your teaching style or your favorite teacher’s teaching style?

Prof. McGonagall – Tough but Fair

Prof. Snape – Tired of these kids’ crap & their excuses

Prof. Umbridge – Stick to the Program even if it kills you

Prof. Dumbledore – Focused on Mentorship

Prof. Lupin – Hands on . . . with all kinds of creatures

Other ______

One of things I’ve always wanted to do is use either HP book excerpts or a “reel” of movie clips involving the various Potter teachers in action to begin the discussion on teaching with my students.  As noted above, the range of teacher archetypes (strict, scary, caring) is there, and there are certainly more:  Professor Sprout (practical and down to earth), Trelawney (haunted and out to lunch), Binns (who won’t give it up, even though he should have long ago), etc.  If you take a moment to consider it, there’s a lot to talk about and pull apart (challenge) in the representations of these teachers.  I remember that on the first day (long ago . . . ) of my teacher ed/master’s/credentialing program, one of the instructors played the famous Ben Stein “Anyone, anyone . . . ?” scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Besides making us laugh and relax a little, the clip got us talking about teaching and where we imagined we would land as teachers ourselves.  Although I hadn’t had a chance to prove myself at that point, I definitely knew that I didn’t want to be Ben Stein.
How about you?
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I’ve been thinking about JK Rowling locking herself away in a nice hotel to finish Deathly Hallows . . .

OK, so I’ve been fantasizing about my locking myself away in a nice hotel to finish the Teaching Harry chapters I’m working on.  Simply not having to break to do the laundry would be incredible.  That’s where we’re at folks.

Honestly, it’s probably even more self-serving than that.  Being locked away would also likely keep me safe and out of the “OMG, I FORGOT TO PAY FOR MY KID’S YEARBOOK” guilt disasters.  Which doesn’t sound like such a big deal, until you have to explain that to your kid.  A couple of times.  Yeah, not pretty.  (Although I have to add that particular problem is solved, another story, though . . . )  I am indeed the absent-minded, stressed-out writer at present.  Mostly because of the constant running dialogue in my head and the fact that every day is another day crossed off the calendar and closer to our deadline (!!!!!) and if I’m not writing, I’m thinking about why I should be, even if I’m stopping to go to the grocery store. So I can, you know, actually feed my kid.

I love it, though.  And I know Becky does too.  Current state of education aside, talking and working with cool teachers, thinking on Harry Potter, imagining what school could be – it’s all a good, good thing.

As long as you don’t forget the groceries.

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