Monthly Archives: February 2014

Literature as a Window and a Mirror

Way back in 2007, I wrote my first post on this blog, with a type of mission statement that has grounded my career as an English educator from the start–I talked about the idea that Universe as Text embodies: the idea that we need to read and interpret the world around us in order to understand our lives. This idea still lies at the very heart of why I believe in my work so intensely. Teaching English is a way of encouraging new realizations about the human experience in the next generation through stories that are consumed and created.

I’ve been working alongside my teaching partners Mrs. L, Mrs. J, and Mr. B all year to refine the curriculum for our junior level communications class, which we’ve been trying to make more and more about seeing the relationship between rhetoric and society, exploring how authors use narrative as a vehicle for social commentary. We’ve also taken a more individualistic look at literary works, through a psychoanalytic lens, to show what fiction can reveal about a character, about an author, and–in turn–about us.

Somewhere during these professional conversations, I suddenly remembered something that one of my mentor professors, Dr. Tom Scott, used to say in lecture at UWM. He used to reference the idea that literature works both as a window and a mirror. We look out, and see things we wouldn’t otherwise see. We look in, and see ourselves. It’s a simple, but very effective metaphor. As I prepared to transition my class from two units that focused heavily on author purpose and social commentary to a more personal exploration and study of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, I created a stick-figure comic to share with my students to demonstrate the difference in the ways of thinking that we’d be applying. It turned out to be a highly effective way to explain the different ways that we can use to study stories, and the disparate yields (both of great value) that we can gain from that study.

I formalized my comic a bit on the iPad and decided to share it here. [P.s. Procreate is an amazing drawing and painting app, despite its unfortunate name.] It is my hope that this image will also be of use in your class, especially in framing the varied approaches that you and your students take when exploring texts of all kinds.


Untitled artwork

Wix: My New Darling of Classroom Web Design


This is a mini-post that mainly serves as a “Hey! Look what I found!” I’m pretty excited about it, and if you’re a teacher that uses the internet as a canvas for student work as I do, you’ll be excited, too!


Now and again, I come across the need for my students to create a website. In the past, I’ve used Google Sites for this purpose, since students can use it collaboratively and, if you’re using Google Apps/Chromebooks, the connection is intrinsic and easy. However, (and please forgive me, Google, for you are amazing in most other ways) let’s be real–Google Sites can look pretty horrifically awful. The editing process is clunky, widgets are hit or miss as far as how they will display or operate, getting pictures to show up attractively takes forever, and the overall look of most Google sites made from scratch is very 1999. But using Google Sites will get student content up on the web, and it’s free… which counts for a lot.

This is where the new guy swoops in to save the day. I recently became aware of Wix is a web service that allows anyone to quickly create an account (which can link up through a school Google account as well) that allows for the quick creation of totally customizable, awesome-looking websites… for free! If you’re familiar with the agonizing frustration of editing Google Sites, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that Wix sites are a whole new world of web design that looks slick and edits in a highly visual, drag-and-drop kind of way. The editor also works equally well on a Mac, PC, or Chromebook, and even includes a customizable mobile version of the website.

I’ve been using Wix with my Photography I and Photography II classes as a place for an online portfolio where they can post their images and reflect on them, but any type of project or portfolio could become a Wix site. (Click here to see the example photography site that I’m currently working on. If I did it, you can, too!) All students have to do once they publish is share the link with you, and you can view and evaluate their work. Even better, they can easily share it with anyone on the web as well.

Go forth, and be amazed at what your kids can do with Wix! Let me know in the comments how your attempts go, or if you’ve already dabbled in this resource and have additional pointers to share. 🙂