Publishing About Your Teaching

One of the best panels I went to at NCTE was Becoming a Teacher-Scholar: How and Why to Publish About Your Teaching in Professional Journals. I think the session was so interesting and useful because it named some of what I had already intuited and demystified some of what goes on behind the scenes of a professional journal. My notes are rough as I hastily scribbled them on a file folder and then typed them this morning.

Jacqueline Bach, LSU, Baton Rouge, ‘Publishing the ALAN Review’

I unfortunately did not take notes during this portion, although some of what she said was echoed by Ken later in the panel.

Julie A. Gorlewski, State University of NY, New Paltz, ‘Publishing Mini-Classroom Studies’

Writing is about improving product, thinking about what you do
Reconsidering data- can be qualitative or quantitative, doesn’t have to be a bad word

Essential steps

  • Finding a focus (Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How will we know when we get there?)
  • Identify learning targets- skills/knowledge/dispositions want kids to have (What data will indicate progress toward this?)
  • Determining the baseline (info that clarifies current situation)
  • Conducting study, gathering data
  • Reaching the finish line

Ken Lindbloom, editor of English Journal, on writing for EJ

  • Readers want to know the things you know, audience- primarily secondary English teachers
  • Acceptance rate higher for themed issues (General 10-15% Theme 20%), writing to theme helps narrow focus but article don’t have to stick precisely to questions in call for manuscripts
  • Keep your teacher voice-  speak like a well-informed colleague. Don’t try to be overly academic, but do situate your article w/in larger conversation w/ attributions. Look at back copies of EJ to get sense of how others have structured their articles
  • Imagine attribution as being at a cocktail party and moving among groups of people, taking the best ideas from each, and expanding or challenging them (Kenneth Burke’s metaphor)
  • Use artifacts- samples of student work, handouts, rubrics, questions you ask
  • Draft submitted to journal should be in final form (like open house in real estate), but expect changes to be worked through in the editing process.
  • Pitfalls- heart of article doesn’t come until the end, simply rehashes what’s already been said, story of how you came up with an idea isn’t enough- need to talk about practice, implementation

Anne Elrod Whitney, Pennsylvania State University, University Park , ‘Challenges and Benefits of Professional Writing by Teachers’

Researching why teachers write for publication for her PhD

Why did they write?

  • Stopped time, ability to think about one moment deeply
  • Gives words to describe practices- psychological shift,
  • *Changes things that are hard in the classroom into things that are interesting* (Thing that resonated most strongly with me during this session)

What’s hard about writing for publication?

  • Fear of being know-it-all, telling others what to do. Accusations that you’re making it harder for other people because you do it so well, making teaching needlessly complex. How to address– shift the frame, not telling others what to do, but describing clearly what you see, do, think
  • Feeling constrained/overwhelmed/intimidated by conventions of the article. Temptation to write grad school paper. How to address– think of manuscript calls as party invitations, bring genre study skills to looking at professional articles, do it the way it’s typically done or know why you’re doing it differently
  • Loneliness of writing. How to address– work in writing group, either in person or virtual

Jim Burke, author, on his experience of writing

  • Diverse writing experiences- journals kept as first year tutor, 1:1 teacher, SF Chronicle column (5,000 words cut to 500 by an editor to whom Jim is grateful), Personal essays- EdWeek, Teacher Magazine, Ed Leadership, commentaries for the local NPR station
  • Use blog, English Companion Ning as rehearsal space for articles
  • Cited Anne Lamott’s assertion that the most important tool for a writer is a comfortable chair
  • Personal experience is important but if writing something true, want it to be true for many
  • “If I reflected any more, I’d turn into a mirror”

Final thought- can’t remember who said this-
“When the toilet’s backing up, no one wants to read a history of the toilet.” Write about what you know and do in a way that’s accessible and practical.

2 thoughts on “Publishing About Your Teaching

  1. Hi, Meredith! This is your “table neighbor” from Monday’s workshop with Penny/Maja/Mariana. I’m delighted to find your blog and all its wondrous resources, courtesy of the seemingly endless stream of follow-up emails I’m still receiving after the conference. Thanks for all this great work, and for your generosity in sharing it! I enjoyed the time we spent together in that terrific workshop. Hope you’ve had a great Thanksgiving, and that your year continues to go well. Deb

  2. Thanks, Deb. I enjoyed the workshop, too! Maya, Penny, and Mariana are fabulous.

    By the way, if you’re getting too many emails from the Connected Community website, you can change your settings:

    1. Log into Connected Communities with your NCTE login
    2. On the left hand navigation, click on “My Subscriptions”
    3. Change the subscription from “Real Time” to either “No emails” if you want none or to “Daily Digest” to receive a daily summary of the postings made to this group.

    I switched mine to the Daily Digest, which has helped stem the tide of emails 🙂


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