Bringing it Back: BLTN Teachers Bring Home Summer Learning

Feb 11th, 2019 | By | Category: BLTN Teachers, Bringing It Back, Impacts, Winter 2019

In this issue, we feature reflections from three Bread Loaf Teacher Network fellows on their summer learning, and on how that learning translates into collaborative teaching and social action plans for the 2018-19 school year. We are pleased to present reflections from Brent Peters who studied in Vermont, Amelia Gordon, from the Oxford Campus, and Mery Lizardo from Santa Fe. We include each of the 2018 course catalog descriptions for reference; the most recent course descriptions are available on the Bread Loaf website.  

Brent Peters
English and Food Literacy Teacher
Fern Creek High School
Louisville, KY
Kentucky BLTN Fellowship made possible by the Cralle Foundation

Vermont Campus 2018

Using Theater in the English Classroom
In short, I will say that magic happened in the class–and that magic was in us already but had the chance to be drawn out of us and offered to the class as performance under the careful and wise direction of Angela Brazil.  

Angela started the class with movement, and with “getting us out of our brains,” and she stepped us up through various exercises like breathing, tableau, partner poses, creating smaller then larger performances in small group, creating lessons as a Theater in the English Classroom teacher for other teacher, and a final larger performance for the Bread Loaf Community.

The class transformed us each day, and I can say that each of us entered the class believing in the work and in the community of the class, we became closer each day, and by the end of the class we all left the room wondering and marveling at how the work that we did in the class was even possible.  We brought literature to life by becoming alive ourselves. In so doing, we learned with our entire body, that, as Jude Sandy from the BL Acting Company told me “our body is one big brain.” If we leave the body out of our planning and our instruction, we are leaving most of our selves out of each lesson and each classroom.  Like in each class where I felt freed up and still spinning with energy at the end, I want to take what I have learned in the class to my kids, to be confident and “absolutely believe” in my ability to do this work as Angela says we must all do to make this work, and to have the goal to change the landscape of my classroom as a result and the relationship that kids have with literature, too.  I want to be able to lift up what is possible. What Angela gave us in the class was the true experience of doing, that is now so connected to all of us that we are drawn to, proud of, and so ready to share with our own students.  

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7807 Using Theater in the English Classroom
A. Brazil/T, Th 2–4:45
Theater can offer students the opportunity to viscer- ally enter and deeply understand—and own—a text. In the tradition of the Bread Loaf Acting Ensemble,

this course will explore ways to use performance to excavate a text; its goal is for students to have the tools to do this work with their own students in their year-round classrooms. Working collaboratively as actors, we’ll employ choral readings, find and theat- ricalize events, find where a piece hits us emotionally, and create its physical life from there. The work we make in class may culminate in an original piece for the Bread Loaf community. We’ll be working with a variety of texts exploring some of the essential questions raised in A Tale of Two Cities, this summer’s main theatrical production. All material will be available as a course packet. Though performance is central to the course, the emphasis is not on acting; no previous act- ing experience is required. Students must be available to rehearse a great deal outside of class.

Texts: Eileen Landay and Kurt Wootton, A Reason to Read: Linking Literacy and the Arts (Harvard). A course packet containing all other texts will be available through the Middlebury College Bookstore.

Writing for Children
Sam Swope and Michele Stepto created a wonder of a class in Writing for Children that not only helped us gain confidence of writers by daring to do the work of writers; they also welcomed us all back into a world we thought we all knew, to find out that we can inhabit that world of childhood and story in a deeper, more meaningful way–and they taught me that we do not ever have to leave that world of childhood stories, because it is the richest source of all stories.  

Sam and Michele were immensely helpful and supportive of our class as a group of writers. I felt surrounded by meaningful feedback in a way that I have not yet known.  I felt accountable to the writing process because of all the love and support, and honesty that Sam and Michele gave to me. They read, thought about, and commented on every piece that I (and every student) wrote. They asked questions that challenged me to take my writing to the next level. They designed a course that opened up levels of inspiration–through the models we read, through the writings of other students that we have workshopped in class, and through the ways that they have gotten us to think through the interaction of both about how we might want to take things on, and how we might tackle a writing in a new way.  

I know that I will be taking Writing For Children back to my classroom in a number of ways: 1) by including more Children’s Literature in class and by giving it the same weight (if not more) than any other work of literature; 2) by opening the connections between the world of literature that our kids have read in their childhoods and the works that we read in class; 3) by inviting kids to write (and illustrate) children’s story and to add a class library of works; 4) by adopting the model that Sam and Michele have provided us for how to challenge a class as writers, how to surround a group with multiple forms of feedback, and how to honor the process of writing with belief and care.

7019 Writing for Children
M. Stepto and S. Swope/M, W 2–4:45
Stories for children, like stories for adults, come in many colors, from dark to light, and the best have
in common archetypal characters, resonant plots, and concise, poetic language. Using new and classic texts as inspiration, we will try our hands writing in a variety of forms. The first half of the course will be a story-generating boot camp; students will write a rough draft of a new story for each class. In the second half, students will continue with new work and, with an eye to shaping a final project, revise some of what they’ve written. We will also add critical readings to the mix. Students should come to the first class having read Wally’s Stories, The Witches, and “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rapunzel” from the Philip Pullman collection. The artistically inclined should bring their art supplies with them to campus. All books for this class, including the picture books, will be on reserve in the library.

Texts: Roald Dahl, The Witches (Puffin); Philip Pullman, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (Penguin); A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner (Puffin); William Steig, The Amazing Bone (Square Fish); P.D. Eastman, Go, Dog, Go! (Random House); James Barrie, Peter Pan (Puffin); Janet Schulman,You Read to Me & I’ll Read to You (Knopf); Virginia Hamilton, The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales (Knopf); Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin, and Jemima Puddle-Duck (all Warne); William Steig, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (Aladdin); Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon (HarperCollins); Wolf Erlbruch, Death, Duck, and the Tulip (Gecko); Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting (Square Fish); Molly Bang, The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher (Aladdin) and Picture This (SeaStar); Jon Klassen, This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick); Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, The Dark (Little Brown); Felix Salten, Bambi (Barton); Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg (Random House); Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen (both HarperCollins); Gabrielle Vincent,A Day, A Dog (Front Street); Mo Willems, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Hyperion); Vivian Paley, Wally’s Stories (Harvard); Nathaniel Hawthorne, A Wonder Book: Heroes and Monsters of Greek Mythology (Dover); Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio (Puffin); Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book (HarperCollins); E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web (HarperCollins); I. B. Singer, Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories (HarperCollins); Kate DiCamillo, Raymie Nightingale (Candlewick).


This summer I was able to see how both courses would impact the quality of instruction and the vision that I have as a teacher to be able to create a classroom where each student feels not only like he/she is in community, but also part of that community.  Angela, Sam, and Michele created strong communities in their classes that I looked forward to being part of and that I will miss greatly.

BLTN Plans for This Year

      1. Finish Say Yes to Pears,  a book about how Bread Loaf classes transform us as educators and allow us to say yes to our whole story in the classroom.  The book is about Food Lit. in and beyond the English classroom and beyond the school day as well. Say Yes has been four years in the making and is now in its final draft stages.  Say Yes is due to be published by NCTE Press this year.
      2. Plan Teacher Professional Development Day, Spring 2019: Laura Benton, John Hall, and I will be working with C.E. & S.,  Kentucky Bread Loaf teachers, and Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) to create a Professional Development session for JCPS teachers that will showcase the work of Bread Loaf and invite JCPS teachers to join in Andover Bread Loaf and the Bread Loaf School of English as well.
      3. Connect with Hindman Settlement School: This year John Hall and I (and our kids from Fern Creek High School [FCHS]) will be developing a relationship and potential partnership with Hindman Settlement School.
      4. Document how Bread Loaf classes go back to FCHS: As part of my MLitt., I want to begin to document how the Bread Loaf classes that I have taken the past two summers of my MLitt. are informing my teaching, helping me to help my colleagues, and projecting forward into goals and ideas that I see in the future.  For the MLitt. I am going to be focusing on a pedagogical project related to Bread Loaf classes, with the focus on creative and nonfiction writing, landscape, food, theater, performance, and movement.

Bread Loaf classes and fellowships have enabled me to envision and do more than I would have ever been able to even dream about on my own.  I am incredibly humbled, grateful, and honored that to be part of a group of people who believe in this work to make change in the world.  

Amelia Gordon
English Teacher at South High School and Co-founder of Erase the Space Collaboration
Columbus, OH
Bickimer Fellowship made possible by the Promise of Learnings, Inc.

Oxford Campus 2018

Connecting and Collaborating

This summer, I attended the Oxford campus and enrolled in Atlantic Crossings with Christine Gerrard and an Independent Oxford Tutorial with Lucy Hartley. I found both courses incredibly challenging after a strenuous, albeit exciting, year with Erase the Space. Atlantic Crossings covered literature of (loosely) the 19th century, beginning with “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and ending with House of Mirth. Though demanding, I knew it was important that I enroll in the course as I have somehow made it to this point in my life as English teacher without reading some important, canonical texts (Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter) and that I probably would not sit down to read them without the motivation of a Bread Loaf course. At times, I felt vastly underprepared compared to my classmates. Christine would pull books off her bursting shelves (or pull quotations out of her head!) and, sometimes, they were completely unfamiliar references. Of course, that is why I come to Bread Loaf — to push outside of my comfort zone. Yet the experience of feeling like least prepared student in class inevitably brings me back to thinking about the students in my classroom at home. I do not want them to go to college and feel like they are not ready to be there. I also want to choose texts that are relevant to their lives and, hopefully, inspire them to be lifelong readers. I feel that tension in text selection, in curricular choices, in scheduling, and in the day-to-day decisions I make in my classroom. We must meet students where they are and value their existing knowledge and experience; we must also push students forward into unfamiliar territory so they are ready to pursue any opportunity they choose.

Christine would often ask if we taught any of the novels read in class (I don’t currently) and/or whether we could teach a text covered in class (yes, some). Frankenstein occupies such a place in our cultural consciousness that I think it would be a valuable and fairly interesting read for my students. I think I now have a better understanding of how to use Poe in the classroom beyond an uninspired “scary story” approach. I am going to integrate Whitman poems into my tenth grade Honors class this year. I’m also going to design a few close reading lessons with excerpts from Walden. Overall, though, this summer’s class  affected me in ways more abstract than curricular choices. I feel like I am returning to school a better-prepared English teacher and that some pretty significant gaps in my educational background have been filled. I am more confident in my literary criticism. Christine gives detailed, meaningful feedback on writing, which I am looking for as I am beginning to write for publication. It also reminded me that if I work hard and prepare, I can “hang” just fine. What a valuable lesson to bring back to my students.

7950 Atlantic Crossings: Anglo-American Literary Relations, 1798–1900
C. Gerrard/T, Th
This course aims to explore the cross-currents and interconnections within British and American literary cultures of the 19th century. By looking at key texts across a wide variety of genres and modes, including epic, romance, the Gothic, realism, and naturalism, we will examine the sometimes tense and compet- itive relationship between American authors and British cultural models. We will explore a variety of themes, including American innocence and European sophistication; landscape and nature; history; self-re- liance and community; sin, guilt and the “double self.” We will conduct seminars around key pairings or groupings of pivotal British and American texts, supplemented by other contemporary materials.

Texts: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798 and 1817); Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851) and “Benito Cereno”; William Wordsworth, The Prelude (two-book version of 1799) and “Westminster Bridge” (1802); Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854); Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life,” and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818); Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly (1799); Edgar Allan Poe, Selected Tales (1837) (especially “William Wilson,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Black Cat”); Wordsworth, “The Thorn” (1798); Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850) and “Young Goodman Brown”; George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860); Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899); Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905). Most of these texts are readily available in Oxford World’s Classics editions or Penguin editions. There is an Easy Read or a Hackett edition of Edgar Huntly, ed. Philip Barnard.

I also learned a lot about myself as a reader and writer through the Oxford Independent Tutorial. Independent research was not a part of my undergraduate or first graduate experience, so this my first foray into a larger scale, self-directed project. I arrived in Oxford unsure of what I was actually going to write about as my initial proposal was a little vague and, as it turned out, way too ambitious for such a short time frame. It took me a few meetings with Lucy to even decide what I was actually going to do and then another week or so to have a breakthrough in terms of structure. I knew I wanted to look at religious conflict and racial conflict, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t conflate the two or get into a dangerous pattern of comparison. Northern Ireland and the United States are dramatically different countries and their conflicts are radically different; however, I wanted to see if I could look for overlap in terms of the way people deal with conflict and attempt to heal. Lucy smartly steered me towards art, poetry, and shorter pieces of nonfiction instead of adding another pile of novels to my stacked reading list. She also helped me navigate the murky waters of writing about racial conflict, something I am also grappling with as I write for publication.

After looking at the way artists, poets, essayists, and documentarians in Northern Ireland and the United States speak about conflict, I feel more confident than ever in our Erase the Space process. (See the 2018 BLTN Journal article about this collaboration.)  Kehinde Wiley and Joe McWilliams question representations of historical events and provide alternative perspectives. Claudia Rankine and Seamus Heaney memorialize lives lost in conflict and bear witness to trauma. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Patrick Kielty argue that healing is both an individual process and a societal one. Erase the Space students learn about segregation in Columbus, Ohio, and how communities were systematically, deliberately destroyed, complicating the generally-accepted “that’s a nice neighborhood, that’s a bad neighborhood” narrative. Students listen to each other’s experiences growing up in a segregated city. Finally, they propose solutions that are meaningful for both parties. Along the way, they are communicating and collaborating with students they might have never met otherwise. I am so passionate about this work and so excited that, in addition to continuing to exchange with Derek’s students,  we are beginning at least five new exchanges across the Columbus area this school year.

Teachers involved in EtS exchange are enrolled in a class that Derek Burtch and I are teaching through Otterbein University. As of December 2018, we have applied for a grant in partnership with The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State and Ohio State Extension. The grant would pay for Derek Burtch and I to continue teaching part-time and to work part-time on Erase the Space. We are hosting five exchanges across Columbus and meeting with teachers regularly to help facilitate the Erase the Space curriculum. We are also co-authoring a chapter on digital ethics for an upcoming publication and writing (the first!) joint Independent Research Project for Bread Loaf. We hope to turn our IRP into a book about our experiences with Erase the Space.

This BLTN partnership has affected my teaching, my career, and my life. The response to our work at Bread Loaf and in our community communicates to me that this process is what teachers, parents, and stakeholders are looking for to combat some of society’s biggest problems. Doing the work well and supporting our students in a massive undertaking and one that I take very seriously. It also makes me incredibly excited to be back in Columbus, back in the classroom, and back to work.

Mery Lizardo
Connected — English/OneGoal Educator

Upper School Academy Upper School Academy at Lawrence High School
Esperanza Fellowship

Santa Fe Campus 2018

This summer I took Latinx Literature with Damian Baca and Multimodal Writing in the Digital Age with Cruz Medina. I was intentional and excited about choosing these courses because they helped me reflect on both content and practices that I’ve used. Both courses required a level of vulnerability in working with and creating materials that were either personal to who I am,  or that pushed me to try strategies outside of my comfort zone within very encouraging and collaborative communities.

In Latinx Literature, we started our work with Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera, a text which helped me think a lot about the realities of minority women, especially given that I am a first generation Dominican immigrant who teaches students from a similar background. We were able to discuss the oppressive systems that keep women and men estranged from their indigenous roots and what it means to actively dismantle this system in an inclusive manner. I appreciated that from the beginning of the course Dr. Baca approached difficult content from an honest and democratic place. For example, originally on the syllabus he had Junot Diaz’s Drown, having created it prior to the allegations that came to light during the spring. Rather than making a definitive decision for us, at the beginning of the course we held a discussion about voting whether to keep the material and whether we were comfortable potentially teaching it. This practice made me think deeply about using a similar strategy with my students and making sure that they feel included in the process of what we learn. I felt Damian really cared about our opinions and level of comfort moving forward,  which made a world of a difference.

7620 Latinx Literature
D. Baca/T, Th 2–4:45
We will investigate how Latino/a writers challenge basic assumptions ingrained in the Western under- standing of literature and its ties to alphabetic literacy, Hellenocentrism, civilizing missions, and global capitalist expansion. Canonical literary history often preserves a Eurocentric imaginary timeline of Greece to Rome to the Renaissance to the Modern World, thereby relegating the immense planetary majority to the periphery. We will study how Latino/a writers displace this timeline with spatializations and periodizations in which Latin America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the peoples of the Rio Grande basin become central to an understanding of “new” literary possibilities. Finally, we will examine how Latino/a aes- thetic practices rooted in lived and livable experiences foster decolonizing relationships to body politics and to each other as well as to the natural world. Readings will be paired with a class field trip to El Rancho de las Golondrinas living history museum in Santa Fe.

Texts: Juan González, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (Penguin); Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (Aunt Lute); Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Codex Espangliensis: From Columbus to the Border Patrol (City Lights); Eduardo Galeano, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books); Melissa Lozada-Oliva, Peluda (Button Poetry); Junot Diaz, Drown (Riverhead); Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies (Algonquin); Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican (Da Capo); José Manuel Mateo, Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker (Harry N. Abrams).

We questioned our pedagogical beliefs on multimodal writing, technology, and alphabetic writing in In Multimodal Writing in the Digital Age. This course pushed me to reflect on what values I was presenting to my students in relation to how I asked them to communicate their learning to me. Cruz (Medina) had us write out a teaching philosophy and then from that remediate it into an infographic, and then into a video.  Most of us were quite nervous about creating an actual video given that it’s not a requirement or common practice within our work. However, being asked to think about why we teach, what our goals are, and how we think about technology within the classroom, helped me verbalize what I’ve often assumed my peers and students already know. Making the teaching philosophy through multiple modes helped me reflect on how much access I do, and sometimes don’t, provide for my students to the content we learn. I’ve been able to look through the materials I use and using the same remediation strategies Cruz used, I think about how I can remediate my lessons and assignments. Here is a link to my teaching philosophy video and my infographic

7090 Teaching Multimodal Writing in a Digital Age
C. Medina/M, W 9–11:45
This course looks at how we can think about teaching writing with technologies so that it is more in line with digital literacies used to compose in online spaces. Once we recognize how our beliefs about writing align with histories and traditions of teaching writing with technology, we can articulate and (re)mediate these teaching philosophies across multiple digital genres. Reflecting metacognitively on our own design and translation choices across media will provide opportunities to consider what makes “good” writing and how these criteria can be effectively evaluated and assessed.

Texts: Jason Palmeri, Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy (Southern Illinois); Kristin L. Arola, Jennifer Sheppard, Cheryl E. Ball, Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects (Bedford/St. Martin’s).

Infographic from Multimodal Writing in a Digital Age

Plans for Collaboration
Kurt Ostrow and I plan to collaborate on a zine of students’ personal stories. He teaches in Fall River, MA while I teach in Lawrence. We plan to foster student connections digitally and then take a joint field trip to the Addison Gallery at Phillips Andover. We hope these relationships, this enlarged audience, will increase engagement and make the project matter more. Before we publish the zine, students from each of our classes will be able to weigh in as editors on the pieces that they think should make it in, then support in revision and editing. Having an authentic audience and meaningful purpose to drive this work. We hope the experience will help students reflect and be vocal not only about the importance of representation in academic spaces, but also in their communities.

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