Teri Heisey: Bringing it Back

May 14th, 2014 | By | Category: Bringing it Back, Spring 2014
by Teri Heisey
2013 Bickimer Fellow
Lead Teacher
Ecole Kenwood Immersion, Columbus, OH

Bread Loaf has certainly returned to Ecole Kenwood in Columbus, Ohio. I remember sitting in the Barn between classes working on a paper and feeling so fully present, inspired, motivated, and productive. While in the barn, I would “come up for air” between ideas and look around to find other like-minded students swimming in the deep end of their own thoughts as well. I remember yearning to bottle up that sweet barn environment with all its sounds, smells, and tangible thoughts just to release it into my own classroom.

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Teri Heisey’s students displaying artifacts from their correspondence with the students of BLTN teacher Chantal Kenol-Desmornes in Haiti.

During the precious two weeks I had after Bread Loaf and before the school year began again, I changed two novels and deepened the poetry section of my language arts curriculum because I knew my students could read more and at a higher level if I kept a consistently high expectation and guided them beyond their comfort level into the land of deeper learning. The coursework at Bread Loaf took me beyond my comfort zone of what I felt like accomplishing in one day and made my brain sweat for success. Sometimes it is easier as a teacher to give students a comfortable or doable workload because I know I won’t have to deal with students wanting to quit or receiving parent phone calls about deadline freak-outs at home. Pushing students to read and write at a higher quantity and quality this year helped students grow beyond their own expectations and helped their parents see them in a new light as well. I had been nervous about receiving angry parent phone calls due to my new work load and had not expected the many appreciative calls, emails, visits, and letters I received instead.

Isobel Armstrong’s Romantic Poetry class affected not just what I teach but how.  I had the luxury of experiencing well-seasoned pedagogy from a student’s perspective and found myself taking as many notes on class activity ideas as on Wordsworth.  Professor Armstrong inspired me to incorporate a routine of lengthy close reading, student-lead class discussions, and acting out visualizations of text with movement and sound into my lessons instead of using those types of activities just to mix it up. I also changed the balance of the student workload by requiring more time spent on independently reading class texts the night before and coming to class with prepared questions instead of spending the same amount of time cold readings with reflective homework after. This way, students were able to do more reflective work in class where I had a chance to deepen student discussion and extend reflections that otherwise would have reached a limit too soon at home.

Damian Bacas’ class on Multilingual Writing has affected both students and staff at my French immersion school.  Every other year, the older students take a trip to Canada to practice their French.  This year, we were able to discuss different French dialects and whether or not one dialect is “right” and therefore better than another. Kenwood has many native French speakers on staff from Belgium, Quebec, Cameroon, Louisiana, and France. They too have entered the discussion on stereotypes based on dialect. This idea is transferring into students reflecting on their own English dialect as well.

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