Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Transmediating the Survey for Teacher Candidates--an Invitation for #NCTE13

Instead of simply reporting for participants what happened in my classes when students engaged in transmediations, I want to invite #NCTE13 participants to share some of their own.

Ideally, students and I would have the shared experience of having read a full text, but for the sake of demonstration I will invite you to read and respond to the following short excerpt from Whitman's "By Blue Ontario's Shore"(1856):

Are you he who would assume a place to teach or be
                                a poet here in the States?
The place is august, the terms obdurate.
Walt Whitman, “By Blue Ontario’s Shore” (1856)

1) Consider what this question and observation mean for you in your own teaching context.  What might they mean for your students?

2) Share that understanding in the comments by uploading a text, image, or short clip of music.


  1. I had to look up the term "obdurate" in a thesaurus, and when I saw that it meant stubborn, iron-willed, and adamant, I thought of Taylor Mali's "What Teachers Make."

    I also really felt the "blue" in the title, and found this painting:

    I have so much to say beyond what I can fit in this box before I leave for the airport to fly to NCTE, but I'll see you there - I'm thinking about how this makes so much more room for interpretation, working against this idea that we should "take" meaning rather than "make" meaning. I think this gesture toward critical thinking is incredibly important in a writing classroom, too...not just literature. So, more on this later...hope this helps! See you in Boston!

  2. Agreed with Chelsea: This transmediating is an illuminating challenge. And I had to look up "obdurate" too. I wonder what old--or young--Walt (I picture him as here, arms akimbo, wish I could paste in the image-- would have made of the going obduracy of Assessment. Walt who in the great bitter poem "Respondez" railed,

    "Let the people sprawl with yearning aimless hands!
    Let their tongues be broken! Let their eyes be
    discouraged! Let none descend into their hearts
    with the fresh lusciousness of love!
    Let the theory of America be management, caste,
    comparison! (Say! what other theory would
    Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few
    smouchers! Let the few seize on what they
    choose! Let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
    And it's not just in assessment--in management, caste, comparison-- or in the reign of smouchers that obduracy prevails, but in ourselves, in the hyper-analytical or clinical approach we bring to the classroom, as if poems exist to be dissected rather than experienced.

    "Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?" WW asks in "Song of Myself,"
    "Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
    Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
    You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
    You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books [I was tempted to edit out that phrase!],
    You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
    You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self."

    Transmediation seems a superb way of getting students to filter things for themselves. See you at the conference!

  3. So first, I'll contribute and image of Whitman from this "colorized photos of history" website: (ctrl+f to find Whitman, or scroll about a quarter way down). I love this image because he looks wise, but still so inquisitive. I hesitate to say confrontational, but reading this text that's almost the feeling I get. His poetry always strikes me as deeply meditative but also very rousing and fierce. I totally see that here.

    On that note, I'll leave my U2: (I'm including the song, not the video. Although of course the video's great.)

    The song is powerful for its meditation on meeting, leaving, seeking, and finding, but also for the hard relationship that takes place within its lines. There's such an intense give-and-take between the narrator and the object. Okay, the song is obviously sexual at times, but the way I'm feeling right now there is a potential teacher-student relationship there. There is the same near-antagonistic relationship in the music that there is in Whitman's short piece here. "You're dangerous / cause you're honest / You're dangerous / you don't know what you want" - this is either me or my students; sometimes I can't decide which. A few weeks ago, I had a student tell me to stop getting so excited when they contribute ideas to our discussion about literature because they know I'm not actually surprised or interested. I'm reminded of that animosity by both of these pieces, because who are we to assume that we belong in a classroom? That students should listen to us? That what we have to say is worthwhile? We see ourselves as "august" (inspiring awe) but maybe to our students we're "obdurate" (stubborn) - or maybe they're stubborn.

    I like this song because both parties are both. There's such an aggressiveness and animosity from both actors, but there's an element of forgiveness, realization, and even inspiration at the end: "Come on now love / don't you look back!" Of course I'm emotionally drained right now because we just made it through finals and I just said goodbye to my first group of students ever. I'm heartbroken. I'm angry that I gave them so much of myself and they're walking away with it all. I feel like this narrator, in the song because I've been left in the dust while encouraging the leaving, and in the poem because who am I to suppose that I can do this for the rest of my life?

    I'm obdurate because my students are august.

    Enjoy NCTE everyone, I wish I could be with you!

    1. Also, I just want to say how excited I am to be able to participate electronically in this panel!! :)

  4. What strikes me about this excerpt is the august place of teaching. Where do we teach? And where do our students learn? When I taught in Kenya two years ago, my students (future English teachers) dutifully showed up for classroom lectures in all of their courses, knowing that the lectures were the gist for their exams. But when I talked with groups of students outside of their usual learning context, most said they did the bulk of their learning independently or in study circles they had developed with peers, often using their mobile phones to download texts that would complement their standard studies.

    Back here in the States, as I continue my work as a teacher-trainer I see the august place of learning in the field and in the shared spaces, such as this blog, where we generate the kind of knowledge that I hope Whitman would admire—innovative, insightful, creative, and delightfully complex. We teach and learn through our interconnectedness, adding a global perspective to our local circles of learning.

    Here’s how I bring it together:

    Looking forward to seeing many of you tomorrow.


  5. Thanks all! I'm going to keep the thread open for participants--including my Methods students next term. Stay tuned!