Updates: Developing the Work Force through Work Based Learning, Researching Peritext, & The Studio Reunion II Rescheduled (Finally)


So it’s been a month.

The culmination of a busy season at work, being a dad, writing chapters for books, and conducting research really pushed blog posting to the very back of my to-do list. I have a few interesting pieces I hope to get up on the blog shortly, but in the meantime, here are a few updates in which I think a few of you might be interested.

One-on-One Mentoring in Work Base Learning (WBL)

I have expressed in posts this fall my frustrations concerning some of WBL students really struggling with communication and self-advocacy. On a large-scale I did a workshop with my students back in October focused on resume writing and providing students headshots for their LinkedIn profiles. What was unique about the workshop is it was almost entirely virtual (except the headshots, which had to be done in person). Using my district’s online learning platform, students were able to turn in resumes and cover letter drafts that I in turn provided feedback on while answering questions in real time via Google Hangouts. Not all students took advantage of the opportunity, but enough did where I feel the online framing provided for the drafts and feedback was worthwhile. I am going to continue to play with this method of working with my kids to increase workshop access.

More importantly than the workshop, however, is the opportunity I had to really dig in to develop a few skills with one particular student who was disgruntled in his sales job and advocated for a change. This is a student I would have to say fit into my group that struggled to communicate effectively, but whose desire to improve his working circumstances was admirable. Self-advocacy, to me, is one of the most important skills for a student to develop before exiting high school, and the fact this student advocated with me a desire to change jobs and follow the correct protocol to do it showed progress. His desire to change jobs also opened up an opportunity to work on a micro level where we tackled email communication, interviewing, resume building, cover letter writing, and tenacity.

The work and mentoring I did with this student highlighted my concerns I had originally expressed in previous posts about students being work-ready. In all, the process took about a month to land a new job. The student grew impatient at times and even requested if he could start skipping meetings at his current job. These moments were a big learning moment for both of us. We had to discuss and develop his approach to interviewing. The student wanted $9.00 an hour wherever he was to work next, but the reality is he would be hard pressed to find that starting hourly wage with his limited experience. To his credit however, he went to interviews and practiced the art of interviewing with companies he knew would likely not pay him his desired wage. I admire he stuck to the notion of what he wanted to be paid; that self-advocacy is vital, but his inflexibility on wage meant he would need to practice patience in the process. When all was said and done, he landed a position in a retail store that would pay him $10 an hour. He found the position himself as well. While it is not the ideal internship I would want for him, the job will serve his current needs, and undoubtedly he grew from the experience of revising a resume, cover letter, and interviewing several times.

Researching Peritext in the ELA Classroom

I am currently working on writing a chapter in an upcoming publication with a former professor of mine and one of my dissertation committee members. I remember feeling honored when she reached out to me to pitch the chapter idea and her desire to work with me. I have said throughout my doctoral pursuit and even once if was finished that I desired to continue to research and use the skills I developed. Interestingly, the research I conducted this fall was unique for a few different reasons–1. The research all took place in another teacher’s classroom whereas my previous research had been in my own. 2. My understanding of peritext, which I will define shortly, was tangential at best, yet the book being released centers on the topic. I went into the project with uncharted waters awaiting me.

Peritext, put simply, is traditionally considered the text that is not part of the text proper (Gross & Latham, 2017), which typically includes components such as a forward, preface, table of contents, acknowledgements, etc. Gross and Latham (2017) argues peritext has a much larger footprint in understanding and critically thinking about text than might be considered by those teaching media literacy. I am currently learning a good deal about their Peritextual Literacy Framework (PLF), which really expands how to define peritext and witness its presence in several mediums. For the purpose of the project I have been working on, the peritext elements are embedded in the artwork of Banksy and the 2011 documentary about him, Exit Through the Gift Shop. I worked alongside a colleague and fellow English teacher, Glenn Chance, to develop a unit that combined his work with memoir in his 9th grade language arts classes and looking elements of visual literacy and documentary. We very much built the unit as we went along constantly tweaking and revising our approach as the combo of memoir and documentary and visual literacy simply had not been developed before in our school. The findings are still to come, but the experience was enjoyable. I relished being in a language arts classroom again even if just in a co-teaching capacity.

While the chapter is not due out for another year, the findings could have insightful and revealing points to consider for the future use of visual literacy and stronger considerations for peritextual elements in the classroom.

Gross, Melissa, & Latham, Don. (2017). The peritextual literacy framework: Using the functions of peritext to support critical thinking. Library and Information Science Research, 39(2), 116-123.

Studio Reunion II Rescheduled

On December 29th I will finally be able to sit down with another group of former students to discuss the impact of project-based learning and their time in my Studio program on their current work as college students. We had to cancel the first attempt in early October due to a personal issue on my end.

The first reunion over a year ago was humbling and exciting as each student had stories of what was good about the program and what did always go according to plan. I am excited to see what this new group of students have to say about the good, bad, and ugly of the program as they reflect on their time in that space and where they are now.

For my readers who are interested, the video of our conversation will be up by December 31st and posted here on the blog.

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