Back to the High School Classroom


Isn't that text-lingo for something?

Well, in my case, it's a bit of a surprise, something not unbelievable but rather, "How did I get here?" Maybe a bit of deja vu?

On two warm winter evenings last week, there I was standing before a classroom full of teenagers--real, live teenagers. High school seniors! How long has it been? I don't even want to think about that.

You're probably wondering how I got into that situation.

I suppose I could blame it on Flory, but that wouldn't be true. She wasn't at the meeting where Curt Bertelsen, the Director of Professional Development for the Pima County Joint Technical Education District (JTED) said he needed to find help for the Career and Technical Education teachers to teach writing in their programs in order to meet the CCSS requirements. She wasn't at my computer that evening when I blithely sent him an email saying that SAWP could solve his problem.

So there I was, teaching the students in the Fire Science class to write the narrative portion of the incident reports that firefighters must write after every call. Classroom teachers who have struggled to teach students to write for AIMS will be gratified to know that some things stuck. Unfortunately, they were the things that students didn't need in an incident report narrative. No elaboration, no extensive use of transitional phrases, no introductory paragraph, no conclusion. Just the facts. Nothing more. They need to describe their every action during the incident (from the time of dispatch, through the events at the fire, until finally going back to the station). Perfect chronological order.

Frankly, it was fun. The kids were great and they really got into the writing. When we looked at some samples included in a published investigation into a fire that resulted in a fatality, the firefighters' narratives had been converted into bullet lists. The Chief (Bob DiPietro, the teacher) told them that if they wanted to write their narrative as a list, that was okay. Some of them did that, and when one young firefighter brought his revision to me for feedback, he said, "Putting it into a list kept me from using run-on sentences." His English teacher would be so happy to hear him say that. See, your work has not been in vain.

Working with the Career and Technical Education teachers in the JTED program is part of a budding partnership between SAWP and JTED. Our goal is to provide support and professional development for the CTE teachers in teaching writing. This is a partnership that will go on for a number of years and will involve a number of SAWPers. If you are interested in participating in this project, send me an email (