Tag Archives: Jim Gray


I treated myself to a walk on the beach today after a writing project meeting at the university.  So instead of walking on the beach near where I live, I walked on the beach down the hill from the university.  It was foggy and cool, a perfect day for thinking and reflecting.

As I was walking I was thinking about the meeting…a follow up to the Invitational Summer Institute (a 4-week intensive leadership institute in the teaching of writing)…and the structures that we need as learners to move along the continuum from novice to expert (with the endpoint constantly moving) and from follower to leader.

The structure of the Summer Institute (SI) is designed to immerse teachers in writing, researching, reflecting on their practice, and critical conversations about teaching and learning.  The structure is strong and well built, based on the 40-year-old model developed by National Writing Project founder, Jim Gray.


This pier is also a carefully designed, well built structure made to withstand the battering waves of the Pacific Ocean and the relentless wind and sun.  I love the way when you look through the pier it narrows and provides a window through the corridor of surf out to sea just like the SI helps teachers look carefully at policy and practice and then focus on instruction that best supports the students in front of them.

And some of the structures we depend on are organic like these cliffs.


They are shaped by the natural environment.  I watched our SI participants create their own structures as well.  They gathered this morning, organically, catching up with each other as we, as facilitators, finalized our last minute plans.

And then there are structures that are light and flexible, like this feather on the beach.


It makes me think of our Twitter Fellow of the Week.  This playful use of social media supports more weight than you might imagine.  While we originally saw this program as a way to connect to one another within our project by giving each other a glimpse into a week in the life of an SDAWP educator, it has proven to do more.  When teachers use Twitter as a professional learning network, their interactions begin to impact their practice.  Suddenly they are reading more professional articles about education, “listening in” to debates about policy and practice, getting and sharing ideas from others (within our site and beyond our site), and making their own classroom practice more visible.

Today we asked our SI 2013 cohort to sign up as Twitter Fellows…and starting tomorrow we will begin to get a glimpse into their lives.  (You can follow @SDAWP_Fellow on Twitter) Those who are more confident on Twitter signed up first…but others are willing to dip a toe into this unfamiliar world of tweets and hashtags and mentions.  And they have the rest of the SDAWP community who are happy to help…and the others in their cohort will also be “listening” on Twitter, ready to respond and retweet and favorite…so they won’t be hollering into the dark.

My beach walk today was quiet and introspective as I thought about all the structures I noticed…and those we use to support learners.  Structures can help us stretch and reach and connect as we learn and grow.  What structures support you?  What structures support your students?

Remixing and the Cardiff Kook

Tomorrow my class is traveling up the hill (a mile or so) to the other school in our district to write with the older students in the other multiage class (many of whom were in our class a year or two ago).  We’re doing this to celebrate writing and the National Day on Writing and this year’s theme: write2connect.

In the spirit of connection and Jim Gray (the founder of the National Writing Project) and even the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), we will “try on” writing about the same topic in three different ways.  While the CCSS text types (narrative, informational, opinion/argument) will constitute our broad categories, students will be able to fuse and mold the writing to fit their own interests and purposes.

So…to get students started thinking about opinion/argument, this post will be my attempt to create an opinion piece focused on the Cardiff Kook.  The Cardiff Kook, a piece of public sculpture officially named “Magic Carpet Ride,” has been the center of mischief and controversy in the small coastal town where I teach.


So here I go:

Love it or hate it, the Cardiff Kook has become an iconic image in the seaside town of Cardiff-by-the-Sea.  Guerrilla artists creep up to the statue originally named “Magic Carpet Ride” in the dark of night to creatively adorn the controversial surfer in any number of theatrical props.  It has been transformed into Oprah in celebration of the last Oprah show, engulfed in the jaws of a great white shark, and carried off by a prehistoric flying creature.  I love the Cardiff Kook. It’s a great ambassador for Cardiff, bringing in tourists from all over and creating opportunities for community building within the town.


It’s fun to see the kook all dressed up.  There is never a time when I drive by the statue at the intersection of 101 and Chesterfield Drive when I don’t slow down to take a look to see if there is a new creation.  For a while, a couple of years ago, the kook was transformed regularly and extravagantly. Lately that has slowed down and most days it looks like it did today when I took the photo in this post.  I love to take out-of-town guests and family members by to take a look at the statue…always hoping that it might be dressed up in some interesting way.

I recently read that images of the kook are now copyrighted and will be licensed to fund the upkeep of a public garden across the train tracks from the statue.  I’m guessing that was the thinking behind the Cardiff Kook calendar and maybe even the annual Cardiff Kook Run. These kinds of products and events can bring a community together as we all connect through our experiences with the kook.

Mostly, though, I just think the kook is fun.  I think the point of public art is to create conversation.  Some people will like some pieces and some won’t. But the conversations and arguments and conflict make us all think and engage and pay attention.  Not liking the original surfer sculpture resulted in creative and playful ways to re-envision this piece of public art.  And most of the time it remains unadorned as the sculptor created it…but every once in a while others add their own spin to the art, remixing the original artist’s vision with their own to create something new, different, interesting…and create a new conversation.  And for me, that is much more valuable than looking at a static,  unchanging piece of art day after day, year after year.  The Cardiff Kook reminds us to be playful, to have fun…and to connect with each other.

What do you think?