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Weekend Workshops: Renewing the Passion

by Terry Maguire &Kate Lewis
Lincoln International School
Buenos Aires

Learning from a Master
"Is 'teacher' part of your self-definition?" Dr. Michael Hogan asked during the first three minutes of our two-day Advanced Placement Program workshop. This type of personal question that encouraged reflection followed by discussion set the tone for our weekend workshop. The Lincoln International School in Buenos Aires, Argentina, hosted a two-day AP workshop in English Literature and Spanish Language. Participants from Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia were fortunate to have Dr. Michael Hogan as their visiting consultant. We applaud the College Board's decision to have only master classroom teachers lead these workshops because these experienced educators are in touch with the daily realities of teaching.

The workshop leader, Dr. Hogan, presently teaches English at the American School of Guadalajara in Mexico, where he has been the head of the Humanities Department since 1990. He is also a published author, and he captivated us with readings from two of his many books, Imperfect Geographies and Mexican Mornings. Dr. Hogan's passion for teaching was contagious, leaving us all spiritually and intellectually recharged. For every question we asked during the workshop, Dr. Hogan offered either a personal suggestion or a helpful handout from his teaching files. He freely shared his AP course syllabus, lists of skills students needed to master by the time they reached the AP course, and some of his favorite works. He led discussions of great value, sharing knowledge and insights for everyone to carry back into the classroom.

Throughout the weekend, we discussed matters of the spirit and acknowledged their place at the core of teaching. Dr. Hogan's awareness of the connection between being a grounded individual and an effective teacher confirmed many participants' beliefs in the importance of a holistic education that extends beyond the immediate subject matter. Since much of literature is about essential questions that humans have asked since the beginning of time, we agreed that it is necessary for ourselves, as educators, to take time to reflect on these same issues. It is often this strong belief in the inherent importance of every student that enables us to teach year after year, even during times when we feel like Sisyphus.

Practical Practice
During the workshop, we also practiced scoring student AP essays, and we examined multiple-choice passages from previous AP exams. Group explications of Frost's "Out, Out--" and Wright's "A Blessing" were both thought-provoking and useful in reviewing poetic technique. Dr. Hogan clearly explained the difference between metonymy and synecdoche, terms that even the most experienced English teachers tend to confuse. Participants' newly gained term "objective correlative" and a fresh look at T.S. Eliot's poetry formed part of one of the many spiritual moments of the workshop.

Bernie Longboy, the assistant director of the College Board's International Services, left participants with a wealth of AP resources, including highly effective methods for teaching critical literary analysis. The AP English Vertical Teams booklet outlines well-developed strategies for teaching point of view, poetry analysis, tone, syntax, and argumentation. Prior to the workshop, our English department had experimented with the Vertical Teams approach to teaching tone, using the acronym DIDLS (Diction, Imagery, Details, Language, and Sentence Structure). We found that students who learned this acronym as a way to structure their analysis of tone showed a marked improvement in their ability to speak and write on this topic. Bernie also gave participants the Teacher's Guide to Advanced Placement Courses in English Language and Composition. This booklet includes an outstanding resource bibliography as well as in-depth sample course outlines and lesson plans for writing. One aspect of the College Board's workshop that all participants applauded was the focus on successful strategies for teaching upper-level critical analysis, rather than an exclusive focus on scoring exams.

The workshop ended at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, and after many heartfelt good-byes, teachers left with a renewed passion for their craft and a new network of colleagues spanning several countries. Our English department stayed and talked well into the night about what we learned, writing down ideas to implement on Monday morning when the classroom once again became a hive of buzzing intellectual chatter. We are grateful to Dr. Hogan for sharing his master craftsmanship with us and to the College Board for giving us outstanding conference leaders and materials.

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