My Summer Institute at UMass – Boston

I have been meaning to post something about this for some time, but it has been a slow summer on ye old fritzwinkle. As repeatedly chronicled on the last few posts with a newly purchased house of disrepair and the baby, now due to arrive at almost any moment, things have been busy, to say the least. However, last month I got the opportunity to attend a Composition and Rhetoric Advanced Placement Summer Institute, developed by the College Board. It was a kind of treat, and it gave me my first opportunity to see and spend some time at UMass Boston, which I found to be a remarkably cooler place than I expected. The location is fantastic, right on the harbor, and the Campus Center is really an impressive building, quite beautiful actually as the pics below should attest (in a new experimental picture format).

The institute itself was a interesting. Taught by two older, experienced AP teachers, a group of about twelve of us or so got a deep introduction to the student exam. The teachers had graciously procured, from the publishers, a whole slew of books as potential texts or teacher resources, all of which we got to keep individually. I must have walked out of the session with fifty pounds of texts when all was said and done. I had to bring them home in multiple trips, because I took the T and carried everything on my back.

While the instructors were exceedingly nice and decent, the teacher/students were definitely the strength of the class. There really was a lot of talent in the room, and it was great to be bouncing ideas around with this group. Everyone had a wealth of ideas to contribute, really making for a dynamic class. Interestingly all of us were left a little wanting by the session, mainly because everything was about preparing for the test and not as much about preparation for teaching the class. Once we all saw example exams, we were pretty confident we could devise strategies to attack the exam. Yet, creating an entire course with scheduled benchmarks and a reservoir of effective strategies was not really on the agenda. Despite that fact, I was still able to harvest a host of helpful strategies just from the environment, colleagues, and observation to assist my own classroom practice. Had that thinking been a bit more of the focus, it would have been more beneficial for me, but I still found ways to make it productive. My whole purpose for going was to glean methods that I can incorporate into classes with pre-AP students.

All in all, I really enjoyed heading into Dorchester for the week and attending a class. It was good fun and I was glad I got to go, for free no less.

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