A Dramatic Retelling of the Night Our White Board Went Missing

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by Wyatt Mosiman, junior writing coach

A Dramatic Accurate Retelling of the Night Our White Board Went Missing

It was a dark night. Though not stormy, it was certainly dark. Two individuals slunk through the barren halls of Minnetonka High School, slowly making their way to the Writing Center. Their movements calculated, they entered and exited undetected, taking with them a defenseless victim, the Writing Center’s beloved White Board. The pair altered the innocent Board against its will, displaying their message of hate: “Staff only beyond this point.”

It was then brought into an emptied hallway and left alone. Soon, people began to arrive in large numbers wearing extravagant suits of black and white and dresses tailored especially for the occasion. It was then the poor, immobile Board realized its fate: it was to single-handedly guard the commons from the chaos of the homecoming dance.

At first it felt fear.

“What is to become of me?” it thought. “Why have I been chosen for this task?”

Then it felt dread, as more people than it had ever seen in its life trickled into the building in an unending line.

“Where do these people come from?” it wondered. “How could I stop them all?”

Then it felt terror, witnessing guests in their strange, ornate attire approach.

“When will these people leave? Do they wish to pass me? For if that is what they wish, there is surely nothing I can do to stop them,” it thought, every second growing more dismayed with fright.

After many an hour of this unyielding torture, the Board, exhausted from its stress, fell into a variable slumber, slipping in and out of consciousness. As it slept, it dreamt of the Writing Center, simply hoping to return to its home after such unwarranted suffering.

 

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When it awoke, the Board found itself not in the Writing Center, but in an unfamiliar room, much smaller and more confining than it would have preferred. Being without functioning appendages, the Board could not move and was therefore forced to accept its fate for the time being, hoping that a Savior would come.

And come a Savior did. The Board’s friends were shocked when they did not find it sitting in the Writing Center, as it usually does. They shook their heads in mourning, hoping the Board would return the next day. The Savior, however, was determined to find and rescue the Board; a meager head-shake-and-hope would simply not suffice.

Seeking out the highest authority, the Savior journeyed to the Main Office to converse with the Great Principal of Minnetonka High School. Using vast powers of wisdom, the Great Principal of Minnetonka High School was able to inform the Savior that the Board was being held captive in the fortified Student Government Room.

The Savior set out at once to liberate the Board. Stealthily, the Savior crept towards the forbidden room, when out of thin air appeared a Student Government Representative. The Student Government Representative demanded to know the Savior’s business. The Savior diligently told the truth, explaining the plan of liberating the helpless Board. Unexpectedly, the Student Government Representative grew sympathetic to the Savior’s cause. Together, they freed the Board and hoisted it triumphantly upon their backs as they returned home.

Content to be reinstalled in its previous place of dwelling, there it waits untroubled to this day. The Board stands ready to carry a message on itself, carefully written by its friends.

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NCPTW: 1 week later

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While pondering all the things we learned at NCPTW, we were left with a view of Mount Rainier as we left Tacoma.

by Anna Barnard, senior writing coach and Writing it Out co-editor

A week ago, 14 writing coaches and the Writing Center’s two wonderful coordinators, Ms. Shea and Mrs. Hitchcock, arrived back home from a venture to the Pacific Northwest. We had just attended the National Conference on Peer Tutors in Writing, or NCPTW, in Tacoma, Washington. As we trekked single-file off of the plane, grabbed our luggage from the baggage claim, and made our ways home, we had a lot to think about.

For example, how cultural differences amongst writers can influence writing conferences. Or how a simple “How are you?” can make a huge difference in developing rapport between writer and coach. How therapeutic methods can play into successful coaching strategies, and how grammar is not just punctuation and sentence structure.

Our biggest takeaway, however, was that the Writing Center should be, and is, a place that is welcome to all students. This seems superficial and maybe even obvious, so let’s break it down: every student is welcome in the Writing Center. Students who have been working on a paper for a month are welcome in the Writing Center, as are students who don’t have anything down on paper yet. Students whose paper is due in three weeks, and students whose paper is due next hour, are welcome in the Writing Center. Students in AP Literature are welcome in the Writing Center, just as are students in Chemistry or World History. Students whose first language isn’t English are welcome in the Writing Center. Students of all races, gender identities, and sexualities are welcome in the Writing Center.

We want the Writing Center to be a place of learning and engagement, and we want as many people as possible to be involved. So, take this as an invitation to be a part of a place where we can all write and exist freely. You are welcome.

NCPTW day 2: inclusivity in the Writing Center and beyond

by Katie Ward (junior writing coach) and Connor Erb (senior writing coach)

If you haven’t read Elise and Anna’s previous blog post, this post is being written from the National Conference on Peer Tutoring for Writing in Tacoma, WA. For the past three days, 14 of us have been attending collaborative sessions on inclusivity and how to incorporate it into our own writing center. But inclusivity is, of course, something that extends well beyond the limits of our center. How can we open our writing center and our larger community to welcome a wider demographic?

WELL, we can communicate. Unsurprisingly, much of the obstacles in both writing centers and interpersonal relationships is miscommunication. Perhaps unconsciously, this conference has made “inclusion” almost synonymous with “communicative.” Something many of our sessions have centered on is the different ways to communicate.

Some suggestions from sessions we attended including the use of positive body language, using modern forms of communication such as memes, and avoiding microagressions (unintentional discrimination and subconsciously assumed stereotypes). In the homogenous culture of Minnetonka, microaggressions, recognized or not, are common occurrences that lead to the perpetuation of preconceived notions about both the coach and the writer. Coping with this revolves around communication ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍as well. You have to use those situations as teaching moments. Keeping an open mind, being clear and direct, checking in, and realizing individuality is key for opening communication and promoting inclusion.

On Saturday, the 14 of us each presented our own sessions regarding Off the Page, Writers’ Studio, social media, and perceptions of the writing center. The first two groups covered events at our writing center and our use of social media through a round table discussion format, where each group summarized their own experience in these areas in 10 minute increments. The perspective of our coaches was a unique one amidst college center representatives. Following the round table discussions, five second year coaches presented a synthesis of their writing center research papers that revolved around perceptions of the writing center in regards to gender, academic enrollment, and social groups. This presentation was a part of a three-section session on diversity within the writing center. Each presentation went extremely well, and it was rewarding to see our hard work pay off in the way of sharing our knowledge with others.

Travelling in high school is something I wish everyone could experience. Not only has the NCPTW been an enlightening weekend both in regards to the writing center and to the wider world, but has been one of the best weekends ever. In short, it has been a success.

Check in later this week for the final post covering the conference!

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Writing coaches Grace Bonde, Anna Heinen, Libby Isaacson, Connor Erb, and Alec Huynh presenting on Writing Center events.

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Coaches Emily Boismier, Elise Johnson, Anna Barnard, and Morgan Ambourn presenting on the WC’s social media.

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Coaches Addie Gill, Katie Ward, Jessie Wang, Ceci Stratton, and Kenna McRae presenting on perceptions of the WC.

 

NCPTW day 1: inclusivity and inspiration

With eagerly stimulated brains and newly filled journal pages, we’d like to give our loyal followers an update on what the writing coaches have been up to these past couple of days.

On Thursday afternoon, 14 of Minnetonka’s junior and senior writing coaches arrived in Tacoma, Washington for the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) at the University of Puget Sound. NCPTW is a gathering of writing center professionals from colleges and universities across the nation. We are one of two high schools attending the conference.

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Writing coaches on a University of Puget Sound tour on Thursday.

First of all, the Pacific Northwest is absolutely gorgeous – we were all astounded by the plethora of green, coniferous trees amongst changing fall leaves, as well as the vast salty sound and the beautiful snow-laden mountaintops. University of Puget Sound looks as if it jumped out of a fairytale with its matching red brick buildings and a forest adjacent to the campus quad. But beyond the natural beauty, we’ve also been lucky to witness some beautiful conversations and interactions amongst peer tutors, writing center coordinators, and lovers of literature.

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Writing coaches and WC coordinator Ms. Shea exploring a 16th-century book from the University of Puget Sound archives on Friday.

At this conference, attendees choose which hour-and-a-half-long session they’d like to attend (there are five sessions each day, with different panels going on during each session). The panels can range from lecture-based presentations to discussions to analyzing archival documents, but they all center around the theme of inclusivity in the writing center. Some panels that we attended today include Miscommunication: Verbal and Nonverbal as well as The Wicked Witch is Really Green?: Being Colorblind in a Culture of Color.

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The writing coaches and WC coordinators at the Tacoma Museum of Glass on Friday evening.

Although each panel we attended was incredibly specific and had many different insights to offer, one takeaway we were left with from all of them was the inspiring movement for inclusion of all types of people in writing centers. Conference attendees partook in important conversations about cultural barriers, racism, and gender differences in the context of peer tutoring, while also offering suggestions and approaching each discussion with positivity.

We are looking forward to another day of intellectual engagement tomorrow! Keep checking back with more updates on the conference and the exciting things we’re up to.

With inspiration,

Anna and Elise (two of your Writing it Out co-editors)

Moonshots and Inspiration: MWCA

by Elise Johnson, junior writing coach and co-editor

To quote Grace Bonde: “I should get a shirt with all of Iowa’s attractions on it, just to keep it simple.” As our mini bus wound through the cornfields of Cedar Rapids, Grace soon ate her words, along with some remarkably delicious pancakes. The pictures of barns and farmland on display in our hotel room couldn’t quite capture the spirit of the small Iowan town. This could only be done by a local book store, a city market’s cupcake shop, and a friendly waiter.

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The lovable city of Cedar Rapids happened to be the location of the Midwest Writing Center Association (MWCA) Conference that I attended this past weekend, along with fellow coaches Morgan Erickson and the aforementioned Grace Bonde, and our WC directors, Ms. Shea and Ms. Hitchcock. For those of you who don’t know what a conference like this is like, it’s basically an opportunity for WC coaches and directors alike to meet, attend workshops, and present about various WC concepts.

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Along with attending this conference Morgan, Grace, Ms. Shea, and I were invited to aid in a presentation and  workshop with the University of Minnesota. Our workshop was regarding the Minnetonka  writing center’s collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s WC, hoping to inspire other university writing centers  to collaborate with local high schools. The presentation went very  well and it seemed like others were inspired to follow in our footsteps. Thanks again to all the Mtka coaches who participated in our video, they played a great part in sharing why our collaboration was so successful!

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The rest of our time at the MWCA conference was spent attending various workshops and bonding. Most memorably, workshop-wise, we learned improv activities to use when training coaches, learned about how to use coffee to increase our WC’s hospitality, and were inspired to host a “Long Night Against Procrastination” event (more details coming soon). We also spent long hours during  the bus ride with our driver Steve, playing the word-guessing-game,  Password. We walked to local shops, restaurants, and cafes, taking photos all along the way. We laughed endlessly over unique Iowan quirks and squeezed three people in a one-person nook. And loved every minute of it.

Lastly, we became inspired. The keynote speaker, Brad Hughes, told us to strive for our moonshots: audacious, seemingly impossible goals. During the weekend we were able to form some of these goals: a Long Night Against Procrastination before finals, using improv to improve listening skills, using coffee as a tool for hospitality, and more. We have come away from this conference full of moonshots, full of anticipation for the future of our Mtka WC.

 

Writing Center Events!

Writers Studio

Writer’s Studio podium…picture courtesy of Grace Bonde

Lots of events are coming up in the Minnetonka Writing Center in the month of December! (Disclaimer: all of these events will feature food.)

Writer’s Studio: share spoken poetry, favorite literature, personal works, and more

Writer’s Studio is happening tonight, December 4th, at 7:00 in the high school’s black box theater. Writer’s Studio has been dubbed the “coffeehouse for writers,” and anyone can perform anything of their choosing: their own work, someone else’s poems, the end of their favorite book, spoken word, their rapping skills… you won’t want to miss this. Don’t worry, though: Writer’s Studio happens several times a year, so if you can’t make it tonight, you’ll have more opportunities.

Romeo and Juliet Writing Party

The first writing party of the year is happening on Wednesday, December 16. All the 9 honors English students are invited to work on their essay, win trivia contests, and dress up as their favorite character (if you so choose).

Winter Writing Extravaganza

This is a new event occurring on Monday, December 21st right after school in the WC. Movies, poetry, MadLibs, and cookies will all be features of this wintery writing bash. Come check it out for camaraderie and bonding with your fellow writers – everyone is welcome!

We hope you can join us for some (or all!) of these events in the Writing Center this month. And, as always, stop in for a conference for any writing assignment you’re working on!

Love, your editors: Sam, Elise, and Anna

 

 

 

 

The Writing Center and the “waves” of writing

A wordcloud composed of students' comments after conferences. (Comment collected from our Writing Center Conference forms.)

Students’ reflections on feedback: a wordcloud representing a year of comments, collected from our post-conference forms.

By Maggie Shea, Writing Center Coordinator

Teachers do the heavy lifting of teaching writing. In the community of the classroom, they guide students through texts, urge them to think beneath the surface in discussions, and assign writing projects that require synthesis and original thought. As students write, teachers read countless drafts and provide feedback in person, on paper, and these days, via the comments feature of Google docs.

In the Writing Center, we support this work; like teachers, we know feedback improves writing.  At this point in the year, student writing coaches and I have met one-on-one with over 1,000 students, and embedded in these numbers are many tales of hard work and impressive writing. Traffic in the WC comes in waves, beginning with fall’s college essay swell and a surge of 9th grade Hound of the Baskervilles papers. These waves come from students in a wide array of core classes, along with Vantage, PSEO, and DECA projects. I wanted to highlight some of the big “waves” that came through the Writing Center in the past two quarters—and a peek at the stories behind the numbers.

In February, Ms. Kangas’s 9th graders read Annie Dillard’s collection of creative nonfiction essays, Teaching a Stone to Talk. Creative nonfiction involves telling the truth…creatively, using many tools of literature to write about the real world. In her book, Dillard muses on natural and cultural phenomena, from weasels to lunar eclipses, pairing seemingly unrelated topics in essays – polar exploration and church, for example. Students tried out this genre by weaving together a personal narrative with a scientific concept. The result: 9th graders writing with insight and depth beyond their years. The students found resonance between their own lives and topics including entropy, ocean layers, camouflage in nature, and the physics of falling cats righting themselves. I was honored to meet with some of these students as they clarified their ideas and took creative risks with this challenging assignment.

A 10th grade conferencing wave was the Civil Rights essay.  This year marked the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March and the premiere of the movie Selma, so students’ learning took on new relevance.  For this assignment, eight sections of 10th graders came to the Center during class to conference. Their essay question: how did the collective efforts of many lead to the success of a key civil rights protest (such as the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Selma March, or March on Washington)? Students researched their chosen event, and their teachers focused on the skills of finding quality sources, integrating ideas of others into your own writing, and analyzing evidence. After working with many students on this paper, we in the WC have a greater appreciation for all the stories behind the Civil Rights Act.

“Written Task” is a deceptively simple name for a complex assignment in IB Language and Literature, a popular course for juniors and seniors. One criteria for the assignment: “You may not write an essay.” This is a challenge for many juniors, after focusing on structured expository essays for most of 10th grade; writers need to figure out what form best fits their ideas. In class, students study major themes of imperialism, technology, family, and power through discussion and diverse texts, including the novels 1984 by George Orwell and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. The Written Task involves analyzing one of these themes in an original form—not an essay. During the Written Task conferencing wave, we read blogs, psychological evaluations of 1984 characters, letters, travel brochures for post-colonial islands inspired by ideas in Cat’s Cradle, and even opinion pieces defending The Simpsons.

This is a tiny glimpse into the writing that happens every day at Minnetonka High School.  Any student will tell you that at times, the waves of writing just keep coming. This is as it should be: at its best, writing helps us think critically and express our understanding clearly. It takes work, though, to write an insightful, organized, well-thought out essay. Writing a paper the night before it’s due happens more than we’d like to admit (even among Writing Center folks). But when we allow time for multiple drafts, feedback, and deep revision, the result is always better. Writing is hard work, and thanks to the dedication of their classroom teachers, students get many opportunities to build their writing muscles and develop this important life skill.

Starting a strong second semester

By Alanna Anglum, Junior Writing Coach

The finals week mayhem is over. Grades are in. Students flood the counselors’ office realizing their schedule is worse than they had originally imagined. Third quarter becomes a reality. And, for the lucky ones, this means that their last semester here. The beginning of a new semester looks different for everyone. Classes will switch around. All of a sudden, you’re plopped down in a Painting I class instead of the comfortable struggle of an AP Psych or the horror of a gym credit. And for some, AP and IB classes are chugging away, oblivious to the new start that blankets the rest of the school.  The long weekend is over and you find yourself in a new desk with a new teacher and a new partner for terribly awkward forced partner work. Oh but alas, so much remains the same. 🙂

Third quarter seems to be such a burden for us young folk at MHS. The weather is frightful, the classes are unrelenting, and the fun of a new schedule wears off faster than the tans from spring break will (so, sidenote: my friends, if you’re not headed anywhere tropical, don’t feel too bad). But, with the dreary weather comes a nice break named after the promise of spring. And all this only means we are on our way to the finish line. Even the deadliest of classes (of the AP and IB variety) end a little bit earlier than the rest (May might be the best–and worst!–month ever). Keep your heads up! Because the second school becomes humdrum again, HeartWeek at MHS will hit ya and brighten your spirits. So when someone in your first hour Calculus class feels quite downtrodden and decides to proclaim this day the worst of the worst, you’ll be able to pair the hardest parts of high school with the parts that we will draw on for the best stories of our youth. Minnetonka is hard, but it doesn’t have to be that hard.

And that’s where the writing center can help everyone out just a little bit. Teachers and parents throw around the word ‘balance’ like us Writing Coaches toss around ‘thesis’ or ‘conclusion’, as if it’s a key part of living just as these simple terms are key issues in writing. And as half of my junior year concludes, I’m finally starting to get this! In writing especially, you don’t write in only one way. Your final piece won’t contain only lengthy, complex sentences, nor will it have just simple short ones. Balance shows maturity and understanding of the English language and communication–just like balancing and prioritizing your life does. So, at least let us at the Writing Center help you with the writing stuff.

Heading into this final stretch of the year, just do your best. Do your best down while it’s hard to because then, when it’s nice out and even harder to, you’ve got the nice cushion of a good grade. After all, even my mom still hangs honor roll certificates on the fridge. We might still be kids, but we have an important job to do. That one job is to be good, happy, healthy students.

source: bbc.co.uk

source: bbc.co.uk

Whether you’re a novice freshman, comfortable sophomore, weathered junior, or seasoned senior, you’ve had practice doing this year already! Learn from it! Maybe start making lists? Using MAST time? Try something new! We’ve done this already for half a year now. Light a fire under your own butt and get excited for what high school can offer! We are all tired, but we all have great accomplishments to claim for it. You get a fresh start to change what you’ve been doing, or just do what you’ve always done – just a little bit better.

“No one can make you feel [stressed] without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

I may have embellished that quote, but hey – creative liberties. We are half done, and we’ve got one half to go. But take a deep breath, because people have survived before you, and they’ll continue chugging along behind you after you graduate. So meet new people in all your classes, and live every day like you’re a second semester senior taking it all in – except maybe, do a little more homework.

Quarter One: Thankful for coaches, conferences, innovation, and outreach

By Maggie Shea, Writing Center coordinator

As we move full-steam ahead into Quarter 2, let’s take a glance back at Quarter 1. Though one-on-one writing conferences with MHS students are always our primary focus, innovations and adventures ignited our school year in the Writing Center.

Social Media

We took the dive into social media with this very blog and our own Twitter feed, @TonkaWrites. Kudos to seniors Brynne Erb and Charlotte Knopp for their professional and creative blog-managing. Early into Quarter 1, they had all 22 coaches scheduled for a post date. Thanks to their leadership, we’ve all been inspired by insightful student voices. And thanks to the Twitter team of Will, Alanna, and Gigi for tweeting with style.

International Writing Centers Conference

Every other year, college writing center professionals from around the world convene with peer tutors in writing at an inspiring conference, presenting research and learning from each other. This year’s conference was in Orlando, and I brought along 12 of our junior and senior coaches. Big bonus for us: the trip was co-chaperoned by our beloved friend and former writing center leader Kelly Bunte, who now teaches social studies at MHS full-time. We learned about all things writing and tutoring in dozens of engaging sessions and bonded with other high school coaches from the East Coast. First quarter, all writing coaches took part in a research project on adapting to iPads in the Writing Center, and four seniors presented the results to a receptive audience from colleges and high schools around the country. Fantastic work, research team!

Writing coach course

A new for-credit course, Writing Center Seminar: Theory and Practice for Writing Coaches, meets every Friday during zero hour. The course allows us to study best practices in peer tutoring and writing and connect weekly; with more time together, we are building community and managing the many details of our work with students and teachers.  The University of Minnesota Center for Writing has mentored us in developing this course, and last Friday we all took a “field trip” to tour their writing centers and take a turn as writers in conferences with college consultants.

Outreach

With the help of student and adult coaches, we conferenced with 6th graders at MME on narrative writing. We also worked with Mrs. Ruffino’s Honors 6th grade class at MMW, a partnership we’ve enjoyed for the past four years. Clear Springs Elementary was our final Q1 outreach, where for the third year, our coaches took part in creative sessions. We taught a workshop on “Ode to an inspiring space” as part of an afternoon of architectural-themed offerings for 5th graders.

Our core work: writing conferences

A writing conference is a conversation between an interested and skilled listener (writing coach) and a writer (student), with a goal of refining ideas and writing. Though outreach, research, tweeting and posting are important – and great fun – the core work of the Writing Center has always been conferencing one-on-one with Minnetonka HS students as they work on academic papers. Students can sign up for a conference ahead of time or walk in to meet with a writing coach. Teachers often bring whole classes down to the Writing Center during the day; together, we can provide feedback to all students in a class while they are drafting papers.

Quarter One Conferences Snapshot

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Lessons learned: Reflections on a whirlwind IWCA trip

By Brynne Erb, Senior Writing Coach

The IWCA was three full days of learning about other schools, other ways to approach coaching, and other people. My peer tutors and I enjoyed being a little Writing Center family, and we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this conference in Florida. I could go on forever about all the things I learned from this conference, but I don’t want to overwhelm you- so here’s a list of five lessons that I want everyone to know from my personal experience.

1. It’s a small world, after all.

As cliche as that phrase is, it turns out to be true. Our coaches met other schools at all levels of education that we could celebrate with, be inspired by, and nod along with as we all addressed the triumphs and struggles of running a Writing Center. I enjoyed meeting students from Berkeley Preparatory school who run an Eat and Speak event, similar to our own Writers’ Studio event started last year. They advised I supply refreshments and cake this year to get even more students to attend and read their favorite literature. Marie Antoinette may not have said “Let them eat cake,” but whoever did probably didn’t know how applicable the literal interpretation of that phrase would be for Writing Center events-two other students from separate schools also stressed that cake was an integral part of their Writing Center outreach.

One of the many animatronic displays of the It's a Small World ride.

One of the many animatronic displays of the It’s a Small World ride.

2. Boys tutor girls tutor boys

Sessions touched on everything from balancing growth in a writing center to the role gender plays in conferences, inspiring the song lyric parody  listed above. In one session, Elizabeth Geib from Western Illinois University read her paper that tracked differences between same gender and opposite gender pairings of tutors and students. While her session didn’t give any quantitative data and suggested that the stereotypical gender roles for males and females (men are more reserved, women speak more)  appear to be true in writing conferences, it did inspire me to think about the impact gender does have on my own conferencing. Do I feel more comfortable tutoring male or female students? Do the students care that I’m female? Like Ms. Shea (our Writing Center director) says, every good research paper or study should inspire further investigation, and I’d be  interested to conduct further research in our conferences to see what the implications of gender in conferencing are. The lesson here is simple but often unacknowledged: continue to ask questions.

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Rachel and I attending conferences at the IWCA.

 

3. I’m a “nervous mother” tutor.

Our final night in Florida, we all went out to dinner, and Ms. Shea and Ms. Bunte (our former co-director in the Writing Center) asked us to fill in the sentence “I’m the _____ tutor.” This introspection was fun for all of us, and we all got to contribute to each other’s titles. Ms. Bunte named Ali, I named Archie, and so forth. I described myself as a nervous mother tutor: I always ask the student how they are feeling, what I can do to make this a good experience for them, etc. Like I said, nervous mother. Coincidentally (or maybe not),our coaches were grouped into rooms with one “room parent” (a student to be in charge of tickets and communication)- and guess who was the mother in my room? If you guessed me, you’d be correct.

Me and my Writing Center children: Rachel, Morgan, and Emma (from left).

4. The audience is your friend (quite literally).

Bright and early on Saturday morning we presented on adapting to iPads in the Writing Center. While Rachel and I were nervous for this presentation, Ben and Bastien assured us that it would be OK. And it was more than that- it was excellent. Friends we had met from previous sessions, traveling from Thomas A. Edison High School and the Berkeley Preparatory School, showed up to support and learn from us, and our fellow Minnetonka Writing Coaches showed up in full force to listen to our presentation for the third time. (Thanks for letting us practice in front of you!) We seniors received thought-provoking questions about and praise for our presentation. I ultimately learned that the audience is there to learn from you, not criticize, and we couldn’t have asked for a better experience presenting at an international conference for the first time.

Giving the presentation to a pretty full room for the morning after Halloween! (From Left: Rachel, Brynne, Bastien, Ben.)

Giving the presentation to a pretty full room for the morning after Halloween! (From Left: Rachel, Brynne, Bastien, Ben.)

5. “This is the only place I can start.”

Elizabeth Boquet of Fairfield University gave the keynote address this year, and she blew me away. She began by recounting the recent and historical devastating acts of violence against African American teenagers that have occurred in Florida and acts of violence against children and teenagers in her own community. She recalled the stories of Trayvon Martin, Newtown, Maren Sanchez, the brave leaders of the NAACP that died because they were brave enough to ask for equality.  As she explained it, “this is the only place I can start.” I completely agree. We can’t attend a conference in Disney World and forget what happens, and what has happened, not more than a few miles outside of the bubble that is the land “where dreams come true.” An narrative of interwoven ideas of violence and peace, Disney and the “real world,” English and the power of peace, Boquet’s address struck a chord with me. She brought up the ultimate question: “Is it possible to teach English so that people stop killing each other?” And she responded: “The answer has to be yes.”

The luncheon where Elizabeth Boquet gave her keynote address to just about 1,100 people.

The luncheon where Elizabeth Boquet gave her keynote address to just about 1,100 people.