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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

- Authored by: Eileen Wedegartner

The Power of Reading. Be Empowered, Get Inspired

Get Inspired

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

I can remember the moment in childhood when I was first able to read independently. We were on our annual drive to the Berkshires, a family tradition. As we got onto Route 2 I began to read the signs excitedly to my father. I read each exit number and the names of the towns. “Mohawk Trail” was easy but “Leominster” and “Winchendon” were more challenging. I distinctly remember being in the back seat of the big blue Ford LTD with my dad in the front, feeling his pride as I nailed sign after sign all by myself.

Now, with children of my own, I appreciate his patience and ability to coach me through the tough words. As an adult, when reading is a reflex and you are constantly taking in information, it can be both overwhelming and empowering.

As I grew into a young reader, I would attempt to read everything, especially fiction. Oftentimes I would read deep into the night to complete a novel. I would experience the joy of having immersed myself in a good story, but I would also experience the anticlimax of having finished the story and leaving the characters I had come to know and enjoy. Every final page was bittersweet.

Reading not only brought me information; it transported me to distant places and different times and allowed me to feel the experiences of different people. It helped me develop an understanding of diverse worlds and cultures and showed me places that I might never see in real life. Over the years, the joy of reading branched from mainly fiction to nonfiction. I have had nightmares where I could not read, waking up with chills because I could not make sense of the world around me.

As an English teacher, I hung a poster in my classroom with a quotation that has been attributed, accurately or not, to Mark Twain:

Power of Reading, Keep Your Power

I kept that poster right behind my desk. When I would conference with students about the next project, report, or concept they wanted to explore, half the class would inevitably tell me, “I do not read. I do not like reading. I can just watch the movie.” Of course, nearly all high school students who have to read the “classics” would say that, if only for the sake of bucking authority. I could always appreciate that.

Nonetheless, whenever I heard it I let out a little mocking gasp. Then, taking a deep breath, I would try to appeal to the innate rebellion in teenagers and go into a diatribe about power in the world. Knowing that I only had an elevator pitch to sell my point, I would ask, “You know how the most powerful people in the world attained their power?” Some students would inevitably answer, “Guns or money.” I would shrug and agree, “Yes, those are ways one can assert power over others. But when you trace humankind back through history, power was always in the hands of those who could read.” That is when I would see the student bristle and say, “I can read, I just do not like to read.” Like clockwork I would say “Yes” and then point at the poster behind my desk and ask the student to read it. I would add, “If you choose not to read, you are letting others make the decisions for you and giving them the power.” I would continue, “That means that you get from a book what the film director and screenplay writer want you to get. That means you listen to the newscaster summarize a speech or policy guideline, but without reading it yourself you are subservient to their biases.” I would conclude:

JFY_12-12-19 Power of Reading, Read for yourself

When it comes to teenagers, rebellion against reading does not shock me. With their access to video, text, chat, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. I can appreciate their distraction from focused reading. Reading is a skill and a discipline that needs to be practiced and developed. Learning to interact effectively with a text can be taught both in the classroom and in support sessions.

At JFY, we work to help students develop these skills that are essential to a literate society. While our program tracks where students currently read in vocabulary and sentence complexity, it also allows them to highlight the text for main idea, questions, connections and supporting details. In addition, students can write annotations at the end of every paragraph or at key intervals in the text.

As an educator, I love that we can do this. I cannot induce anyone to love reading, but I can make sure they have the skills to do it well. Being a strong reader is essential to self-empowerment. There have been many occasions in history when learning to read was an act of rebellion, and when writing and reading were the tools of revolution. I will always hold firm with students that once you learn to read well, you will love it. Ever since that ride in the back seat of my dad’s LTD, I have never doubted that reading is fundamental.

More posts from Eileen Wedegartner found here.

Another New Beginning-Start of school

It is exciting. It is exhausting. It is a time of transition for everyone.

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

It’s that bittersweet time of year again, the start of school. We pack away our summer gear, bags loaded with suntan lotion, flip-flips, towels and sand, and trade them in for book bags stuffed with new notebooks. Schools have been freshly cleaned and waxed and everything has a glimmer of hope. It’s that glorious time when every desk is shining, every pencil is sharp, and every Expo marker works.

Collaboration with B.M.C. Durfee High School, Bridgewater State University and JFYNetWorks

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

In 2018-19, Bridgewater State University, BMC Durfee High School and JFY piloted a dual enrollment collaboration. The pilot offered much encouragement and many lessons. Here are some general observations, followed by specific recommendations.

All students, especially those who may be the first in their family to attend college, need support navigating the shifts in academic rigor, independent learning strategies, time management, different technologies, and other aspects of college.

Early College Reduces Inequity

A Promising Pathway to College and Careers

Bridgewater State University, B.M.C. Durfee High School and JFY’s New Partnership

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

The college admissions scandal that broke in March kept unfolding through the weeks and months like an origami of shame, exposing story after sordid story of gross inequity in the college admissions process.

As the national networks uncoiled twisted tales of bribery and deception that famous parents of means had braided to get their kids into elite colleges, local news stations were swarmed by flocks of ordinary people calling in anonymously to admit that they had written their children’s essays for them.

What is College Readiness? Are You Ready?

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

It goes beyond quantitative data points

Measuring “college readiness” is quite the conundrum. Some say it is about test scores, class rank, SAT and GPA. But I think it goes beyond those quantitative data points. While they are all important indicators of skill, there are other measures that cannot be captured in scores but are inherent in “readiness.” These qualities or capacities include executive function, time management in general, prioritizing work and planning for due dates.

Words and Meanings - The teachers’ job, Ask Questions

The teachers’ job

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

The job of the English teacher is to ensure that students can read a complex text with comprehension and formulate ideas about it orally and in writing. Teachers often walk a fine line between imparting their own views and facilitating an environment where students can formulate their own judgements based on their own knowledge, values, ethics and beliefs.

Curiosity and Courage
Curiosity and Courage in the Classroom

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

WGBH, one of our Boston NPR stations, recently ran a three-part series titled, “Teaching the Future: Climate Change Education on Cape Cod.” The series explores the challenges for teachers who are trying to teach about climate change when they have not had deep training on the subject.


Meet the new MCAS with confidence and success

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

I started teaching in 1998. My first year I filled in for a teacher in a Boston exurb. The school was my alma mater, so English department staff took me under their wings to help me do the best one could hope for a first-year teacher. They gave me lesson plans, coached me on practice and helped me develop some good curriculum. By all measures, I had a great year in my first year of teaching.

Enter Connected, Hyperlinked Students

Reaching and teaching the hyperlinked student

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

I recently had a conversation with one of the teachers I work with about a course she is teaching this year. The content is intriguing, relevant and full of rigor. It has to do with social media, networking, media bias, and how we humans are adapting to these rapid changes. It is a course I would have been dying to get into in high school or college.

Is access to literacy a constitutional right?

Of Literacy and Democracy

Is access to literacy a constitutional right?

by Eileen Wedegartner

On July 5, 2018, Thomas Birmingham and William Weld co-authored an opinion piece in the Boston Globe titled, “Mass. has to return to its high standards for education.” The former governor and senate president re-visited the 1993 Education Reform Act on its 25th anniversary, praising its successes and making an argument to raise the ante and not relax the push for high standards that has brought Massachusetts success in education.