Rivers, Roads, & Rails is an experimental blog that we will use to manage the Teaching American History grant collaboration along the Ohio & Erie CanalWay. Our goal is to enhance the planning process, render our collaboration transparent and open to community input, and to create a vehicle for cross-fertilization among teachers and organizations along the CanalWay.
Originally we’d scheduled the Dover Outreach Conference for December 3.We’d scheduled well in advance, and we thought the date would be good for everyone.As it turned out, that night was right after Thanksgiving, and Paula Tucci and the teachers from Dover just were not ready for a conference.Paula asked if we could reschedule the conference for January.We did.
Paula created flyers to invite teachers from throughout her county.She secured rooms and AV equipment.Tony Nigro, Kelly Goodpasture, Jacqui Rebillot, Ardath Nigro, Andreas Johansson, Paula Tucci, Roni Yaxley, and Janie Talbott prepared PowerPoints and handouts for January 14.
Janie spent a day with me in Wooster reviewing her presentation and gather material.In the days before the conference, I’d talked with just about everyone, including Rich Horton, who would make the introductory presentation.We were ready and excited.
At noon on January 14, Ardath called to tell me that her school was closing at 1:00 because of snow.She asked me if we were still on.“Of course!” I told her.Roni called at 1:45 to tell me that the roads were bad.She had taken a ½ day of personal leave, and was driving from Euclid to meet me in Wooster.She would not make it by 2:00.
Roni made it to my house by 2:20.At 2:30 Paula called to tell us that Dover had cancelled all after school activities and planned to close the buildings at 4:00.We had no choice but to cancel.Roni and I dialed all of our brave people to tell them not to make the trip to Dover.We reached everyone except Rich, who had his phone on vibrate and didn’t feel the calls come in.We did not reach Andreas, either.He’d left his cell phone at home.Both men crawled on the snowy roads only to find Dover High School locked.
I begged Roni to stay the night in Wooster, but she was afraid she’d get snowed in.She told me if Euclid had a snow day, she’d rather be in her own home.So, she crawled on the snowy roads back to Euclid.I froze the cookies I’d prepared, and I pouted for the rest of the evening.(I just can’t stand it when I have no control.)
Paula and I agreed to reschedule.The snow has really been a formidable foe.At this point, I am doubtful that we will be able to find a date.I am waiting for Paula to call me and tell me she’s found an evening when the good people of Dover and surrounding districts will be able to hear our message.
I have all the materials that my friends at Curriculum Associates donated to our cause.I also have THE GREAT MIGRATION books for all those who attend.I will just have to wait to hear from Paula.I hope I will be able to share a glowing report soon of a successful conference.
Such brave hearts!I thank you for your valiant efforts.
Like most Americans, I spent January 20 in front of the Television watching history being made. I scanned the crowd looking for Steve Testa and his students. Steve was the only person I knew that attend the inauguration. He took 12 Nordonia High School Students with him. Here is the clip from the Beacon Journal:
Joe Culley plays his drums to welcome teachers to the Nordonia Conference.
I am self-proclaimed conference junky! I love to attend'm...I love to present at them, and I love to orchestrate'm. I can not remember a more glorious time than last night.
From my heart, I thank all of you who presented. I thank those of you who worked to recruit fellow teachers to attend. I thank those of you who filled your car and transported your friends to our great night.
Thank you Steve and Andreas for attending to the fine details of the conference. Your posters indicating room assignments were professional. Thank you for arranging for the rooms and the hot chocolate pot.
Joe, thank you for playing your drum at the beginning of our conference.
Ah! I was a lucky one last night! I had the opportunity to observe teachers as they left Session I and as they came into the library from Session II. When they saw me, they told me again and again how great the session they attended was. One teacher said, "I am just so sorry that more people didn't attend. This is so wonderful...and it is right here in our school!"
Cheryl Carano gave me a gift when she said, "It is not about the number of people who attend. The people who need to hear us are here." Wow!
As she did in Euclid, my best friend, Bonnie Blatnik, served as our hostess, greeting people as they entered and distributing the packets. Roni Yaxley had picked Bonnie up in Euclid, and they were in Nordonia High School before 3:30. Bonnie met us at the door and escorted us to the library. She told me over and over again how glad she was that she attended. She really enjoyed meeting all of you. She loved being at Nordonia High School. She really enjoyed Rich Horton's presentation on the Doan Brook.
As you know, I packed my car with people. I wish you could have been in the car on our way home listening to the conversation! The people I recruited had to rearrange their schedules to attend last night. They were so happy that they did not miss the evening. One-by-one they gave reports of the sessions they'd attended. Believe me; it was glorious.
I was happy to hear Andreas and Steve say that they wanted to present in other places and to other groups of teachers. I think you ALL should apply for the state organization for social studies teachers. I think you should all apply for the national organization for social study teachers! You have such great ideas...and you are so good with people.
I hope you know that when you stand in front of other educators, you give them more than the information you'd planned to deliver. You stand in front as a tribute to our profession and as a model of good teaching.
I was impressed by the principal of Nordonia High School, Chuck Vrabel. I enjoyed his opening joke when he welcomed us, "I am happy to welcome you to this conference. I am also happy to know that there really IS a 'Rivers, Roads, and Rails.' My teachers kept saying they were attending a Rivers, Roads and Rails workshop, and sometimes I wasn't really sure what that was."
I almost wept as Mr. Vrabel walked toward Debra Rumble. "There is someone very important in the audience tonight. This is Debra Rumble, and I began my career teaching with Debra."
Mr. Vrabel's message about the friendships we develop as we teach together was really important to me. His words confirmed what I already knew about teaching. We struggle together; we grow together; we become friends.
I am proud of you. You did a GREAT job last night. Thank you for everything, my friends!
Janie Talbott and Timothy Gallagher discuss what they've learned in their sessions.
Attendees examine the sample packet of materials provided by Curriculum Associates.
On November 6, I met Rich Horton at Sippo Lake Park to attend the Interpreter and Naturalist Gathering. Dr. Mark Tebeau had asked me to attend, and I was glad to do so to honor the work of our RRR partners, Jennie Vasarhelyi and Steven Roberts.
As I listened to Jennie, I looked around the room at the faces of other attendees. They were captured by what Jennie was saying about the importance of the Canalway and all the work that had been done to preserve it and promote it.
My mind drifted to one of the first recruiting meetings Dr. Tebeau and I hosted. It was at the Club House at Sippo Lake Park. There, Sarah Buehl shared the dream of a new new building just across the lake. And here, I was, three years later realizing the dream.
I felt the excitement and enthusiasm in the room grow as speaker after speaker gave updates on completion of sections of the towpath. I was transported back to our visit to Mittal Steel Plant as I listened to the work being completed around Steelyard Commons. I remembered our work at the J. E. Reeves House and Magnolia and the Perkins Mansion as other speakers gave their reports.
The tourr of the grounds brought back memories of wetlands at Shaker Lakes where we began our study of the Doan Brook. I stood on the walkway looking across the lake to the clubhouse where learning about the canal began for me. Then, we went inside to the Congressman Ralph Regula Canalway Center Exhibit Hall. A young guide walked us though the interactive displays and explained how tours of children related to the exhibits. We also toured the distance learning room with its high-tech potential to bring science and nature into the classrooms.
The luncheon speaker was Stephen H. Paschen, Assistant Professor and University Archivist, Kent State University. His topic was "History and Nature are Inseparable!" He showed us slides of Akron before the canal days, during the canal days, and after. We saw Cascade Park and the skeleton on a canal boat. He showed us images of actual canal boats and the Saint Helena at Canal Fulton. The final part of Paschen's talk focused on collecting oral histories. He talked about his own work of gathering oral histories and he mentioned thebook he'd written. I was very surprised when I checked Amazon for the title of his book. Paschen has written a number of books including: CATCHING STORIES: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO ORAL HISTORY and SPEAKING OF SUMMIT: AN ORAL HISTORY HANDBOOK and SHOOTING THE CHUTES: AMUSEMENT PARKS TO REMEMBER.
The four concurrent sessions in the afternoon were: "Canalway Nuts and Bolts: Where am I, where is everyone else, and how is it all interconnected?" "Managing Interpreters: Tools and tricks for helping your staff combine site and Canalway Interpretation" Creating Innovative Programs Using Canalway Interpretive Themes" and "Nature in the Canalway: A resource for Naturalists"
My mind retraced all we'd done during the three years. I was amazed by how far we'd come in our understanding of the canalway and the various ways to teach place-based history. I thought about Nordonia High School initiating a new course, "Village Voyages," based Steve Teta's lessons.
Of course, I came back to Amy Sumen's comment after the very first RRR workshop. "The Ohio & Erie Canal is right in my back yard, and I never knew it!" Her comment reflects the way we all felt about our time in Cuyahoga National Park, in Zoar, in Dover, in Wooster, in Cleveland. It has all been such a wonderful journey.
I smiled as I remember Mickey Krivak's story of a parent/teacher conference. "Ever since you started going to those Rivers, Roads and Rails workshops, my son likes history. He never liked history before."
Ah! Isn't that why we did it? Hasn't it all be great?
For all of the RRR workshops held during our three years together, we used the same four-point evaluation questions.We wanted our same people to answer the same questions about each workshop so that we could compare data among workshops.Since we would be presenting to different people in each different region for the RRR Outreach Conferences, I chose an open evaluation design.Here is a sampling of what people wrote:
New Things I Learned
I learned that these people really enjoyed being together
I found an awesome website on canals
I learned several new websites to use in the classroom
I gained knowledge of a book I can use with my high school students
All about the Cultural Gardens
I learned the two-finger method of speeding up cursor to move up and down
Great U of Va. resource—library census tool
I think I would like to visit the Cultural Gardens
Ilearned new information about the Ohio Erie Canal
The Best Thing About Tonight
Learning about Maureen’s application of the Cultural Gardens
Being with teachers stretching, growing, flying
Being with friends
Websites and resources
TROUBLE DON’T LAST
How to apply the Ohio & Erie Canal to other content areas
The enthusiasm of the presenters
Lots of great people participating in an awesome workshop
The Cultural Gardens Website
The diversity of the presentations…books..canals…gardens..data
I have driven by the gardens…now I have to stop and enjoy them
Transfer to Your Classroom
Use some of Mike Sears’s resources for the canal
New ideas for canal study
Life and Death on the Canal…I learned a lot
Field Trip suggestions…I wish I could take my class
Use of new Web sites
I loved the bag of resources.I can use all of them
I would like to take TROUBLE DON’T LAST to my classroom
I will share with my friends!
Cultural Gardens lesson plan was fantastic
Cultural heritage when we talk about celebration
Looking around me.Knowing what’s near to teach history
Suggestions for Improvement
Are you kidding?
How can we do a better job to get the word (and people) out?
NONE!This was great
I loved it!I am so glad I attended
I wish I had more time to visit all of the sessions…instead of choosing only two
More people should have attended
Great opportunity for sharing
This type of evaluation does not give us data.What it does is recognize in writing the great effort of the presenters.My own sentiments echo wanting more people there.I, too, wish I had a way of “getting the word out.”The superintendent and the building principal, however, reassured me that they were please with the number of teachers who attended.Teaching is a difficult job and teachers usually want to go home to their families.
In a perfect world perhaps all professional development would be scheduled during the school day.In my years leading professional development in the public schools, I know that teachers complain about having to give up class time for professional development.They’d rather have the time to draft lesson plans or collaborate with colleagues.
We have what we have.I am not unhappy with the conference.The comments indicate how well those who attended received our message.Most of all, I am proud of our RRR presenters.They could not have given more if there had been a thousand teachers in their audience.
As I listened to our people interact with other teachers, I became aware of how much they had grown.I became aware of how much I have learned in our three years of work.It was a great day for me when I agreed to be a part of this project.
Our next Outreach Conference is in Nordonia!I will use the same evaluation and I will report on our efforts there!