Master of None??

In the required entrance essay to Kean’s Master’s program I rambled on about how I always thought of myself as a sort of “Jack of all trades” and that completing this degree would qualify me as a “Master of one…”  So, here I am.  The beginning of the end of my journey.  I’m not surprised that I have not one, but five potential thesis topics I am mulling over.  Here we go…..  (read to the 

The Practical One:

Rationale: In the coming years, many suggest that all (most) classrooms will be equipped with a computer for every child.

Elevator Pitch: Using my existing “model classroom” (one-to-one tech environment) I would document my personal experience as a 6th grade writing teacher.  I would create a resource “hub” of sorts for other teachers, districts or parents who might want to learn more about the one-to-one concept.  The website would include personal blogs about my successes/struggles, technology resource lists, self-made video tutorials, links to existing research on the concept, as well as any data on my students’ performance that I might be able to gather.

Question/Claim: One-to-one initiative in the middle-school writing classroom.  Yea or Nay?  (Or, in slightly more formal language: Is a 1:1 technology environment effective when used to teach writing to middle-school students?  Is so, how and through the use of which tools and strategies?)

The Career-Friendly One:

Rationale:  Informal research I have conducted suggests that the greatest obstacle to success in college and, therefore, the number one contributing factor to dropout rates among college freshmen is their writing skills or lack thereof.  I aspire to bring my teaching skills and (more formal) research on the subject to the High School classroom in the coming years. In addition, oftentimes writing instruction, if it’s truly taught at all, takes place within English Literature course.  Unfortunately, “true” writing instruction often takes the back burner to reading instruction and is likely to be taught by someone with little to no expertise in the area.

Elevator Pitch: Ultimately, I would research and write curriculum for a HS Senior-level writing course designed to mimic and prepare students for the traditional “Comp 101” courses often required by incoming college freshmen.  In addition to scouring University syllabuses and interviewing professors to gain insight into the expectations and struggles often seen in such course, I intend to research the latest findings regarding effective methods of writing instruction.  I would also seek identify High Schools that currently have solid writing curriculums in place and analyze/compare their college success rates with schools that lack formally-adopted composition curricula. In addition, I would attempt to confirm my suspicions regarding the lack of writing instruction occurring in typical HS classroom across the nation.  I imagine the rabbit hole goes deeper than one might  think.  Where does the breakdown begin? Who is responsible for teaching our students how to write?  Is writing always an afterthought or extension activity used to assess other learning?  When does/should writing instruction begin?  When does or should it end?  How should it be taught?

Question/Claim: Is the implementation of a formal writing curriculum the key to ensuring the future success of our college-bound high-school students?  Is so, what should it entail?

The “Easy” One:

Rationale: After years of teaching writing to middle-schoolers, I have amassed dozens and dozens of personal narratives.  These stories have engaged, entertained, inspired and helped to teach my students how to write effective personals narrative of their own.  I believe that these “stories from when I was their age” are captivating to my students not only because I am their teacher, but, because they have universally-appealing themes and topics.  In addition,through my work in the classroom, I have been able to hone my teaching skills and have devised a method of instruction all my own.  It is this amalgamation of existing curriculums which has enabled me to realize much success with my students.   

Elevator Pitch: I would author a book of short stories (personal narratives) for middle-school students.  This book could work as a stand-alone publication or be utilized alongside the curriculum I would write.  As a companion to the teacher’s guide, these short stories could be used as exemplar texts.  I would write lessons that match the skills and strategies demonstrated by each short story.  For example, when introducing the idea that realistic dialogue and character development is one strategy for improving the overall quality of personal narratives, I would highlight the areas in my stories that reflect this skill being utilized.

Question/Claim: Effective writing instruction requires exemplar texts which model the skills and strategies being taught.

The Selfish One:

Rationale: My husband’s life story needs to be told.  I will do this one day, no matter what.  This project, as a potential thesis, offers me the time and opportunity to complete it sooner than I would be able to otherwise.  I imagine this experience to make me a better writer and to bring me closer to my husband.  While I may consider this “selfish” because I am invested in the subject, this is also quite a challenge for me.

Elevator Pitch: My husband’s memoir.  As a very inexperienced author, I would study various memoir structures and research methods for extracting stories from interviewees.  Working title:  “A little ‘Justice’ in the World.”  A play on my first-born son’s name, Justice, hints at the outcome of a life turned around for the better.  A life used for good.  A tragic beginning with a beautiful ending.  A glimpse: born into near poverty; drug-addicted mother died of AIDS contracted by heroin use; abandoned by father who was later sent to prison for manslaughter and upon release deported to Dominican Republic; the youngest of three siblings, he witness the sexualy abuse of his two older sisters (one half-sister); witnesses his mother physically abused and engaging in drug use as a very small child; vivid memories from as young as 4 years old; ran away with his sisters at the age of 8; in and out of foster care from 8 to 12; adopted by his best friend’s mother; was placed in special education because of his lack of attendance/homework completion—–graduated college and attended Seton Hall Law School; member of the Board of Education; Firefighter; Business owner; loving father and husband

Question/Claim: Sharing his life story will benefit my husband as well as others.

The Really Wanna Do But Scares the Heck Out Of Me and I’m Not Even Sure If I Can Articulate It In Any Cohesive way One:

Rationale: There’s a shift occurring.  In how people communicate. In how people interact.   Texting.  Twitter.  Websites.  Snapchat.  Instagram.  Facetime.  Pinterest.  Skype.  Podcasts.  Youtube.  Fllickr.  Blogs.  Tumblr.  Reeddit.  Periscope. Virtual Communities.  Audiobooks.  Online Gaming Communities.  Facebook.  Google Hangout.  Hyperlinks.  Netprov.  Pingbacks.  Soundcloud.  Slack. Fanfiction.  Hypothes.is.  Too, the way in which people are entertained is experiencing a shift. . Escape Rooms.  Virtual Reality.  Live-Action Entertainment Experiences.  Mud-Runs.  Haunted Hayrides.  Obstacle Courses.  5K Glow-runs.  Murder-Mystery Dinner Theater.  People don’t want to go to the movies anymore, they want to be part of the movie!  Books, like movies, will always exist.  But the time has come to introduce the world to a entirely new way to experience fiction.  Genre may be the wrong word.  Interactive reading experience might explain this concept a little better.  Maybe this would work for millennials.   Or, maybe this would be perfect for the nearly middle-aged woman who never got into soap operas.  Or maybe, just maybe, this would work for anyone and everyone.  (*Disclaimer- I am very aware of my gimmicky and marketing-centered thought process.  I am an inventor, at heart.  I wish to one day be on Shark Tank.)  This idea was partly  derived from an experience my coworkers and I shared during which we clung to every word posted on facebook by a feuding couple we all knew.  The plot thickened each day and we couldn’t get enough of it!  We screenshot images of posts and shared them with each other at all hours of the day.  The plot was unfolding when we least expected it.  This went on for months.

Elevator Pitch:  Somewhere in between a traditional novel and Netprov lies something that, for now, I will call “Storydwelling.”  Storydwelling is not as passive an experience as reading book, nor is it as interactive as certain forms of Netprov can be.  Imagine this:  You’re immersed in the plot of a riveting fictional drama. You can’t stop. You must find out what happens next. You have a relationship with the characters that you don’t want to end. You’re invested. Committed to the plot.  Pure reading bliss!  This is the reason authors write…..only you’re not reading a book.  There’s a drama (or mystery, or romance, or sci-fi adventure…) unfolding before your eyes.  Not page by page, but in any or all of the other ways you communicate in your everyday life.  Imagine eavesdropping in on a conversation between your protagonist and his/her rival.  In this new reading experience, this could happen.  Your cellphone might ring and you might hear a conversation that leaves you wanting more.  Perhaps, then, you log on to twitter to see what other characters are saying.  Next, you may get a text message from a character.  Only it wasn’t meant for you.  It’s to another character in the story.  You know exactly who it is meant for.  Might you feel exactly how that character might have felt?  Even more so than if you had read about it in a “book?”  You don’t write back, remember.  You can’t because soon the reply appears on the same screen.  A scroll of messages begins.  The story is again, being revealed. Throughout this experience, you, as the “reader” can choose how much and where to dig deeper.  You will have a map, of sorts, to guide you at first.  Once you get the hang of it, however, you will know exactly how to uncover more of the plot.  It would be designed so that even if the reader “missed” or chose not to utilize every channel he/she would be following along with the main storyline.  Don’t be fooled, however, the story doesn’t last forever.  It would be designed to come to an end in a predetermined amount of time.  The reader will feel how people often feel at the end of a good book.  They will crave more.  These characters will become part of them, in a way like never before.  

My imagination sees this:

“OMG!  Did you start the new storydwell by Jodi Picoult?”

“No, not yet.  Is it good?”

“Yes!  Just wait till day three. You’re not gonna believe what happens.  It’s sick.”

Storydwelling:  Don’t read the story. Live the story.

Question/Claim: Can a new way to experience fiction be invented?  Is there a true alternative to a book format for writing fictional novels.

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