Unconference= Success!


A social studies teacher adds his ideas to the Unconference ideas board.

At this year’s first Unconference, ten teacher-learners representing grades K-16 gathered to discuss educational issues that mattered to them.

The day began with a lively chat about preventing teacher burnout. All at different stages in our careers, we talked about the importance of getting teachers to their fifth year of teaching, ways to help teachers become master teachers, and the need for offering support to teachers at the end of their career. The conversation began as a rather depressing one as we explored why teachers reach the burnout phase. Soon, though, the conversation turned towards what can be done to prevent burnout as we all shared ways we’ve battled this phenomenon in our own careers.

Next we went back to the brainstorming board to choose our conversation topics for the next session. The large group split into two small groups with conversations focused on supporting writing in other subject areas and success stories (What is success? Who defines it?). After an hour, we met back as a large group to summarize our conversations. We concluded by sharing resources, swapping book titles, and exchanging contact information.

Judging by the liveliness of the group, it was clear to me that these conversations needed to happen. There is something powerful about teachers discussing what matters to them. Far too often our conversations are dictated by “higher-ups.” As I watched teachers leave Andrews Hall, it appeared each one walked a little taller; perhaps it was the free donuts…but I believe each one left refreshed and proud to be a teacher. Needless to say, we’ll be doing this again next year.

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A Conference Like No Other

You’re invited to attend the first ever Fall Un-Conference sponsored by the Nebraska Writing Project on October 19th.

This rogue conference is modeled after Ed-Camp conferences and invites participants to create the day’s agenda. Here’s how it works: You and your friends show up at 9:00 to add discussion topics to our group white board. Interested in discussing technology in the classroom? What about Common Core? Or maybe a conversation about socially relevant curriculum would float your boat? We’ll have 15 minutes to brainstorm topics.

At 9:15, participants will begin voting for which topic they’d most like to discuss. We’ll narrow the list to four topics for the first time slot and assign those topics to rooms. At 9:30 you’ll select your topic and join other educators and stakeholders for a lively discussion. Discussion will last one hour. We’ll meet back at 10:30 to continue another round of brainstorming and voting. By 11:00 you’ll be talking again about issues that matter to you. The un-conference will conclude with a group lunch and final wrap-up at Buzzard Billy’s in the Haymarket. The conference is free and open to anyone. Help spread the word by forwarding this to your colleagues, friends, and other educational stakeholders!

When: October 19th, 2013. 9 AM-1 PM

Where: Bailey Library, Andrews Hall, UNL City Campus

Need more information? Contact Danielle Helzer at helzerdm@gmail.com.
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Platte River Writing Marathon 2013

September 21, 2013
Platte River State Park
by Jeff Grinvalds


Platte River State Park was alive with writers on Saturday. Seventeen Nebraska Writing Project members and friends of NeWP joined together to explore nature and write.

From the heights of the wooden tower to the depths of the mighty Platte River, writers were inspired by the natural and unnatural sights of the state park. They began their journey at the dock of Owen Lake watching the paddle boats and feeling the glorious sunshine while sharing conversation.

They then divided into groups traversing the trails of the park and nearby areas of interest.

Jeff Grinvalds and fellow writers, Maija, Alan and Kristi traveled outside of the park to Soaring Winds Vineyard and Schramm State Park. At the rock wall in Schramm which is home to fossils and millions of years of sediment, Jeff wrote this poem:

Fossil WallRock Wall

Children climb the wall
just above a sign that reads, “No Digging.”
They arrive in search of dinosaurs,
and mammoths, hoping to be the one to uncover
the next new species
the next Sue,

Instead they scratch the surface
never delving below last year’s dust
never reaching the sediment
that would reveal themselves
to the world.

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