Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Teacher Feature - Angela Hase

This week’s featured teacher is Angela Hase. She currently teaches AP Language and Composition at Moorhead High School in Moorhead, Minnesota. She completed the RRVWP’s Summer Institute in 2012, and last month she co-facilitated the Writing Project’s Winter Writing Retreat at Maplelag Resort.

What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading several books. I'm always reading several because each type takes such a varied amount of time to complete. I am about halfway through The Courage To Teach by
Parker Palmer. I'm finishing Rewriting by Joseph Harris. I just finished The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins.  My next young adult book will be Gracefully Grayson  by Ami Polonsky.

Why do you read?
I read for so many different reasons. Part of my job is to keep up with teaching strategies and to learn new strategies or learn best practices in more depth than I currently know them. Reading professional development books helps me do that. I feel more connected with my profession and my classroom if I am regularly reading professional books. But I also read to keep up with pop culture. I like to read the books on bestseller and awards lists. It keeps me connected to people. Also, I read young adult books to stay connected to students. When I read those, I sit down and I will read them in one day, sometimes two. I just devour them. The pacing in young adult books is so quick that I can't put the book down.  Actually, that is the way I read everything (well, except PD books). I start a book and it consumes me until I finish it. I remember being in a writing block a year ago over winter break. To fix it, I read myself out of it by reading four Toni Morrison books in 7 days. Although I was slipping into a depression from the seriousness of her work, I found that it rejuvenated me. Reading helps me stop to think about life and people and relationships. Without reading, I don't know when I would get to do that.

How do you encourage your students to read?
I encourage my students to read by being a reader. This school year I started teaching AP Language and Composition and I realized that I had not read much non-fiction. So last summer I spent the time reading and I was so excited about all of the books that I read. At the beginning of the school year, I talked about them all and how great they were and how mad some of them made me and how amazed I was to learn new things about dead bodies and what makes someone successful. By the end of the day, they were all checked out of my library. A lot of encouraging students is my own excitement and knowledge. It helps that I try to read young adult books so I know what books to recommend to different students. Each year, I try to read books from different interest levels. It can be tough on me. Reading Eragon wasn't my favorite, but I made it through.

What do you write outside the classroom?
Outside of the classroom, I am working on a novel and a professional piece on graphic novels. I belong to the Fargo writing group and the Grand Forks writing group, so twice a month I attend activities about writing (or at least I try to).

Do any of your writing philosophies/interests translate to your teaching?
Yes, always. I use so many of the pre-writing activities in my classroom that I have learned throughout the years. I am big list maker when it comes to brainstorming. Also, I use a lot of revision activities that I have learned. Right now, I am big into the activity in descriptive writing where students add sentences of description in between their already written description sentences to see how that adds concrete details. I also love using models and pulling from authors' work as inspiration.
Actively writing in my own life makes classroom writing less overwhelming for me. I understand the ebbs and flows of writing and how to work through blocks better. I understand the nervousness of sharing and how to take emotion out of it. I understand the mechanics of releasing information better. I understand that writing really is a process and it's okay to stop in the middle of the process and come back to it later.

Who encouraged you to be a teacher?
I was just born to be a teacher. I feel fortunate that what I wanted to do was actually a career. I know so many smart people that aren't interested in anything that aligns with a common career choice. It can be difficult to spend so much time doing something that you do not consider to be part of who you are. My great grandmother and great aunt were teachers. My sister is a teacher. I come from teachers, so being one was a natural thing to do.

Who currently inspires you?
I am inspired by so many people for so many different reasons. Obviously (and cheesily) my students inspire me. They are so sure of not being sure. They wonder at everything. I need to be around that to keep me looking for meaning in my everyday life. The friends I have made through RRVWP (Erika, Pam, Nancy, Kelly, Kim, Karen). These people are so smart and driven. I need to be around them to keep myself moving forward. My husband. He is so supportive and loyal. I aspire to be that. My parents. Since they are from a different generation than me, it is inspiring to see people who have worked so hard for the next generation. In some ways, I think we lack that now. My parents worked hard for the betterment of my life, and now I have it. That can be overwhelming at times. Really, I could go on and on about the people who inspire me.

How do you write with your students?
I try to write with them on difficult tasks. I usually write alongside them while we write to an AP prompt, especially if it is their first time. If I can see that they are struggling with a writing task, I will write one as well and go over my process. If we are doing creative writing, I'll usually write a draft. I often feel that I need to be vulnerable. I need to put myself out there a bit for them to feel more relaxed about the process. I need to say, hey, you know what, I really got stuck in the middle of this paragraph and this is what I did to help myself out. Or I might even ask  them - what can I do to get myself out of this hole I've written myself into? For me, it helps because it reminds students that writing is a process and seeking help is not a fault. Talking is so important to writing and learning.

What is your favorite writing assignment you give your students?
Hmm, that is a tough one. Right now, I love having my students model Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl". They are so thoughtful with that assignment and it gives them an opportunity to practice so many great writing skills, but it also forces them to be vulnerable.

Do you have any recommended online resources for writing?
For students, I recommend Teen Ink.

If you could have coffee with any writer, who would it be and why?
Oh my gosh! Wow! The real question is, would I pick an author whose work shaped my life or an author whose craft changed the way I write?
Know someone who would make a great Featured Teacher? 
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