Letter From the Teacher:
I worked as a carpenter before I came to the classroom. Each day I could look and see exactly, without a doubt, the work I had done. The wood and the nails were proof I had been there. It is probably for this reason that I am endlessly searching for ways to make some part of the teaching and learning process more tangible, more visible, so at the end of the day I and my students can point to something and say, "We did that."
Mapsites has let us see the work we have done, but more importantly, it has let students see other student's work. This public aspect of writing has given us a sense of responsibility and urgency that a paper handed to a teacher, handed back to a student does not. It has also lent itself as a means by which to talk about revision as a community of writers. We all have work up, how can it be sharper, more clear?
In balancing breadth and depth, the events of the fall 2001 semester, and my funny mishaps as a new teacher, our time writing and thinking in the Mapsites context was cut too short. With that said, the students could not have been more impressed with the way their work looked so professional. They studied each other's work at lunch, at home and came in with good and meaningful questions and suggestions.
We studied the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the ideas and ideals upon which this country was built. It was their job to contextualize these historical documents in their neighborhoods, their life experience, and to ask if and how America has ensured liberty and justice for all. They struggled with these questions, as I hope they always do, as I hope we all do, each day. The question of who authors and interprets history was central to our class and Mapsites has given a voice to our stories and interpretations.
The shortcomings of the work shown are all mine. There are revisions that might never be made, there are insights that did not quite rise to the top of the page because the semester ended. But these works will stay to remind our class of the conversations we had, to inspire other classes to go further, to let me as a teacher look back and say, "we did that." This is now a library of student work that can supplement more traditional texts in my classroom, to keep those questions alive of who writes history and who interprets it.
The doors of our classrooms are too often closed, this is one small way to begin to open them.