A Chance to Say Thank You and a Shot at Publication

060417-N-8157C-162By Elizabeth Jorgensen

As a teacher, my goal is to offer students authentic writing opportunities and the chance at publication. Last year, I found a project called “Defining Freedom” through the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight and Milwaukee Brewer Jonathan Lucroy. For 20 weeks, the MJS published a different student essay in the Sunday newspaper. Each 200-word essay defined freedom. According to the MJS, the goal of the program was “to connect our greatest generation, and their stories to the youngest generation, and what freedom means to them.” My students participated, and 10 were published. This year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is again publishing essays.

In this year’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel project, Adam Weidman, a Marketing Project Manager at the MJS, who helps coordinate both programs, said, “The program is called Mail Call, and once again, it’s another writing based initiative to honor veterans. We’ve renewed our partnership with the Honor Flight, and on return trip of every Honor Flight there is the ‘mail call’ portion of the flight where veterans receive letters from loved ones. Through this program we are extending the opportunity to anyone to write to a veteran (non-specific) and send them a personal letter, thanking them for their service.”

The week before Thanksgiving break, my students drafted letters. The servicemen and women will benefit from their writing, but so did my students: 1) Each letter had an authentic purpose, as each went to a veteran on the Honor Flight; 2) For each letter received, the MJS made a $10 donation to the Honor Flight; and 3) Students had the chance at publication in the MJS.

My students took the letter writing seriously. Students wrote about how thankful they are for service members; they wrote about sacrifice and patriotism; they wrote about freedom and liberty. Because this year’s program is not limited to students, I also wrote a letter. When I wrote alongside my students, not only did they see an example, but they also watched me work through the writing process. After students drafted letters electronically, I provided feedback and suggestions. Then, students finalized letters and decorated and hand-wrote final copies.

Additional details can be found at http://jsonline.com/mailcall.

If you’re looking for an image to accompany this post, here are some options:

Writing Opportunities for Your Students

Power of WordsBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

  1. Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest
  • To learn more, go here.
  • Topic: “Tell us the story of a local leader who exemplifies Leopold’s land ethic. You may interpret local as someone who lives as nearby as your own neighborhood, or who resides and works elsewhere in Midwest region of the United States. To be successful, you will need to read and understand the ‘The Land Ethic’ essay in A Sand County Almanac and convey that understanding in your writing. Participants are also encouraged to explore other writings by Aldo Leopold.”
  • Deadline: 11:59 pm on March 17, 2017.
  • Who’s eligible: Wisconsin students in grades 9-12.
  1. John Stossel’s Tech Revolution Essay Contest
  • Who’s eligible: students age 12-18.
  • Deadline: February 17, 2017.
  • Topic: “Technological innovation has changed our lives, mostly for the better. But some innovation raises safety questions. Some threatens existing businesses. What should America do about that? John Stossel raises a few such issues in his TV special, Tech Revolution, but there are probably many others. After watching these five segments from John’s special, write a 500-1000-word essay on this topic, making a case for how you think government policy should deal with innovation in order to bring the greatest gains to society. Include your own examples of innovation at work, innovation that is being stifled by government rules, and/or negative results of too much or too little government oversight to bolster your argument, and make at least one reference to the TV special.”
  • To learn more, go here.
  1. LSSU High School Short Story Prize
  • Who’s eligible: high school students residing in the Midwestern United States and Ontario, Canada.
  • Deadline: April 30, 2017.
  • Topic: “The theme of the contest this year will simply be realistic fiction. Any form of realistic fiction will be accepted as long as stories are set in the real world…This year, our judges are looking for a realistic short stories written in a compelling voice with a well-developed story, character depth, a detailed setting, attention to language, and a deeper meaning.”
  • To learn more, go here.
  1. Wonders of Plastics Essay Contest
  • Who’s eligible: Wisconsin high school and elementary grade students living in all counties served by the SPE.
  • Deadline: February 28, 2017.
  • Topic: Students should write a 500-1000 word essay on the wonders of plastics. Topics to consider: “Advantages of plastics in food packaging; Creative use of recycled plastics; How plastics benefit humankind; How plastics improve our lifestyle; Plastics in the environment; Plastics usefulness in society; What plastics has done for me; Why the bad reputation of plastics is wrong.”
  • To learn more, go here.
  1. Write A Story Contest (through Scholastic’s SCOPE Magazine)
  • Who’s eligible: students in grades 4-12.
  • Deadline: March 10, 2017.
  • Topic: “Pick your favorite line (Despite its location, Dot’s Donut Shop was about to get famous; I thought it was a costume party; The new coach seemed peculiar, and it wasn’t just because of that third eye). Write a short story starting with your chosen line. Stories must be between 800 and 3,000 words.”
  • To learn more, go here.

 

Feedback as a Learning Experience

feedbackBy Stephanie Nicoletti

As teachers we are always trying to teach our students that receiving feedback is a learning process. We work to make feedback meaningful for students and therefore we expect the feedback we receive as educators to be meaningful as well.

We tell students that every piece of feedback is to help them further their learning and that they should take this feedback as something to grow from. Educator receive feedback continuously, whether through students, co-teachers, and evaluators. In just a short time teaching I have found that we are often the most hard on ourselves and when we receive feedback, we do not use it as a growing tool like we tell our students. A lot of times educators shut down when they receive feedback that is maybe not exactly what they hoped or wanted to hear.

With that being said, one of my goals for 2017 and the rest of this school year especially, is to take feedback and learn from it. Don’t let feedback “freak you out” use it as a tool to learn, grow, and better your practices, I know I will!

She’s the Right Person for the Job if the Job is to Destroy Public Education

By Claudia Felske

This month, I’ll cut to the chase: short but not at all sweet—

Betsy DeVos is President Elect Trump’s nominee for United States Secretary of Education.

DeVos is an activist and millionaire donor in national efforts to divert public educational dollars away from public schools and toward for-profit corporations undermining the original intent of charter schools.

This is the woman set to lead public education in this country.

The charters DeVos advocates have little to no oversight as to the quality of the curriculum, credentials of the teachers, and which students they can deny enrollment. They are exempt from evaluation and monitoring requirements of public schools, many are rife with financial corruption, and many significantly underperform academically compared to their public school counterparts.

This is the woman set to lead public education in this country.

As Diane Ravitch, Department of Education appointee for both Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, said “If confirmed by the Senate—DeVos will become the most radical, anti-public-school education secretary since the Office of Education was established in 1867.” 

This is the woman set to lead public education in this country.  

DeVos has never attended a public school, nor have her children. She has zero experience in public education as a student, teacher, or an administrator. She has no background or experience in curriculum or pedagogy.

This is the woman set lead public education in this country.

Imagine having a new boss at work. Now imagine that this new boss has no experience in your field whatsoever and this new boss has a track record of defunding and destroying companies she leads.   Now imagine that this workplace is every public school in the country. 

This is what we’re dealing with.

So…

1. Educate yourself about Betsy DeVos:

2. Act, email, and call your Senators accordingly.

*The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos is set to begin January 11, 2017.

A Golden Opportunity

jorgensen-family-gold-medal

By Elizabeth Jorgensen

I lecture my students to scour life for dramatic moments, emotional scenes or frightening experiences and write their own stories. I say their lives are filled with gripping tales, just waiting to be told. So when my sister qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games, suffered a flat tire in the triathlon and proclaimed her goal to win gold in 2016, I decided to take my own advice and write the story. But the tale was so big I needed a book. I partnered with my mom, Nancy Jorgensen, who has published two of her own books (From the Trenches: Real Insights from Real Choral Educators and Things they Never Taught you in Choral Methods). In alternating voices, my mom, Nancy (Gwen’s mother) and I (her sister), narrate our family’s journey to Olympic gold.

Along the way, Gwen earned the World Champion title. Twice. And she came into the Rio Olympic games the favorite. In a Sports Illustrated piece, Austin Murphy said, “…Jorgensen has emerged as the International Triathlon Union’s equivalent of Usain Bolt.”

My mom and I are now finishing the last chapters of our memoir. As the book follows Gwen’s Olympic journey, we intersperse flashbacks and anecdotes, revealing a family story that fostered an dream. The process has mirrored what I teach in my classroom: the editing process is never done, collaboration and revising are keys to success, and the publishing industry hands out rejections far more frequently than book deals.

The process also brought my mom and me together—we collaborate daily, writing, editing, polishing. Sharing this process with my students allows them a firsthand account of writing and publishing. I have also shared rejection letters and excerpts with my class. Each time, students express appreciation and intrigue: their teacher is a writer too; writing is a process we all struggle with.

My students enjoy how this is a book about the magic of possibility—that a 24-year-old accountant could remake her life into a dramatic athletic career. The book explores themes of risk, the courage to invent a new life focus, and the unconditional family support that makes extraordinary accomplishments possible. Our memoir introduces readers to a young woman of modest athletic achievements who uses extraordinary desire and discipline to achieve the ultimate in sport. It is an uplifting story of a family who quells doubts to believe in one daughter’s dream. Readers enter the secret world of Olympic training, professional coaching, international travel, sponsor funding, anti-doping requirements, athlete nutrition, and sports physiotherapy. They are privy to the personal life of a professional athlete, complete with family medical crises, weddings and divorces and holiday celebrations. In this story, Gwen Jorgensen, Mom and I travel together, from average to Olympian.

We have had some interest from publishers—and this too is something I’m able to share with my classes. We are work-shopping the book with the AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop in Waukesha and we continue to send our proposal and manuscript out via Gwen’s agent. But we have yet to procure a deal…

Happy New Year!

ny

nye


What is a Marquette Educator?

Follow us on Twitter

Archives