#15 Thrive with Meenoo Rami, creator of #engchat

Meenoo Rami


English teacher, author of Thrive

(Science Leadership — Philadelphia, PA) 


Resource of the Week: www.commonlit.org 

It was founded in December by a group of about 15 former middle school reading teachers who are current graduate students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It thinks scripted curricula disempowers teachers, so Common Lit provides four valuable functions:
1) It collects the best supplemental texts for middle school curricula, 2) It negotiates the copyright permissions to disseminate these texts, and 3) It formats, levels, and organizes these texts by theme, and 4) It puts them online so that teachers can download and print them immediately–no paywalls or subscriptions or “district codes.”

(email me your favorite resource talkswithteachers@gmail.com)


 Segment I – Background and Inspiration


Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught? photo-10

– Meenoo started teaching in 2006 in Philadelphia, where she teaches to this day. She was blown away by the conditions and behaviors, when she first stepped into classrooms. She was a philosophy and English major at Temple and went back to get her Master’s because she did not want to give up on urban education.

 Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher? 

– She believes that we have different mentors at different points in life and in our careers. She had great high school English teachers and she credits her boss, Chris Lehman, for empowering her to take risks in the classroom. 

It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.

– Just moments before the interview, in her class, Storytelling, students are focusing on storytelling and good game design. Her students have to design a game and see if a narrative emerges from that. Some games are going amazingly well and some are just not working. She believes that when you do truly creative work you have to task risks and fail in order to succeed.

What do you love about the Language Arts?

– The more she teaches and experiences the world the less focused on content she becomes. She is more focused on the way her students think, how they collaborate, the methods of their inquiry. She loves the way in which she get to empower her students to tell their stories. See the example of her students’ teen magazine HERE.

What is one thing that you love about the classroom?

 – A big transition that she made was that when she first started teaching it was about “I” and “them.” Now, she thinks of her classroom as “we.” What are we going after, what questions do we have? What challenges are we tackling?

Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies


 What book do you recommend to a developing teacher? 
Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching attempts to re-write the current narrative about what it means to be a teacher in 20
14. It offers practical strategies for teachers to direct their own learning, to find their way to improve their practice in the classroom. It shows you how to find mentors, how to plug into networks, and how to keep your work intellectually challenging. 


What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?

— Meenoo talks about this in the book. Teachers need to take breaks from the grading, planning, etc. We need to read the books, attend the concerts, see the films and participate in the dinner parties so that we can nourish our own interests and passions. Having a diverse set of experiences makes us more complete as teachers. 

 Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally?

– Meenoo started #engchat on Twitter in 2010. When she needs materials, she has her experts and friends filter the information for her. She will tweet a request and her Twitter network will provide ideas and strategies for that teaching need. 

What does good writing look like in a history class?

 – Unless you are writing with your students, you are not teaching writing. You need to write the thesis statement along with the students. You need to struggle, grapple, and think right along with the students. Choosing good mentor texts is important as well. 

 What book should be a part of the school curriculum?
— Instead of naming a laundry list of books, teachers should work to know the right book for the right student at the right time. It is what can make them life-long readers. She wants her students to have rich intellectual lives no matter if they are senators or social workers.