What an interesting week.
Last Thursday-Saturday I attended the Associated Writing Programs conference in DC. I enjoyed it far more than I expected to–attended a great panel on form and the novel, participated in one on Narratives of Immigration and Displacement with my dear friends David Odhiambo and Ranjan Adiga and my new friend Snezana Zabic. Thanks to the SCROTUS, our panel was suddenly far more topical than we’d expected, so even though there was a White House protest going on at the same time, the turnout was decent. I felt a little funny about being the one panelist who was born in the US, but I focused on exile as a sort of spiritual or psychological condition, one I’ve been afflicted with forever and which probably has something to do with my being a writer in the first place. My first line: “I’ve been living in exile for thirty-nine years now, about half of them away from home.” I also spent an awful lot of time at the book fair making new friends.
This Wednesday evening, I attended a roundtable meeting with about twenty other teachers from the Philly area. We met at the Friends Central Lower School and learned about their “Light Lab,” a sort of Maker space consisting of four separate areas: 1) Fabrication (wood, 3-D printing, etc.), 2) Science (greenhouse), 3) Media and computing (green screen, computers, full-fledged recording studio), and 4) Design (art studio). Until last night, I’d thought of Maker spaces narrowly as just the fabrication part, so it was neat to have my assumptions exploded like that.
Finally, I visited the Writing Center at my undergrad alma mater, Saint Joseph’s University. They’ve got a great space, with a lounge-type area where students can go to write (some writing centers, counterintuitively enough, provide no such spaces) and then another room where students can go for peer revision, etc.
Art abounds, and the walls are decorated with (repurposed) book art, which I thought was cool.
They also have this learning commons-type area right outside, with a proper cafe, where students study, write, and cavort. etc.
Dr. Jenny Spinner, who runs the show, is clearly doing good work. Every student mentor is trained in a semester-long class. One of their final projects involves suggesting a way the center might be improved, and she subsequently implements many of them. She also maintains a website for the writing center with nice little flourishes like six-word memoirs to introduce each of the tutors. For scheduling and such, they use software called WCOnline, which I take it is pretty common. It’s $715/year, and I wonder if it’s something we at Punahou should consider. So far, I think, we’ve been making do with Google freeware, but Jenny insisted that WCOnline is worth the money.