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written Sunday, 7/8/2007

When my search for a good math class to take over the summer came up short, I decided to “settle” for a writing class. Under the umbrella of the National Writing Project, the Greater New Orleans Writing Project (GNOWP) offers a “summer institute” to a small group of local teachers out of the University of New Orleans.

The goal is for participating teachers to better develop their own writing skills, and thereby learn how to incorporate writing into their classrooms more effectively. As stated on the website, “teachers are selected on the basis of their success as teachers who use writing, regardless of discipline, in the classroom, and for their promise as equally successful teachers of other teachers. Institute participants come from all grade levels, across the curriculum, and from public, private, and parochial schools.”

Since the rigor and infallibility of math is clearly superior to the touchy-feely squishiness of English, I’m baffled as to why this turned out to be one of the most fun and enriching classes I’ve ever taken.

The chemistry of our group undoubtedly had a lot to do with the effectiveness of the course, which ran from June 4 through July 3, Monday through Friday, 8:50-3:30. The 4 facilitators and 11 participating teachers bonded closely within days, and our wide range of skills and backgrounds made for an excellent environment in which to hone our writing skills.

As the only certified math teacher amongst mostly English teachers, I initially worried that my abilities might not measure up. Sure enough, at least a couple of the other participants have been published, and their writing is definitely on another literary plane than mine. However, I soon came to appreciate that I have certain styles and strengths that work well for me and complement the group quite well.

Through this class I feel like I’ve further refined my own style and become aware of ways I can continue to improve. Furthermore, I’ve gained a few more friends to help me enjoy living in New Orleans.

Below are some selections from the writings and other diversions that I produced during this class.


I’m really pleased with this loosely-based-on-true-events story, even though it’s a little dark. On the day when I shared this writing, a couple other participants coincidentally shared rather heavy pieces, and more than half the participants ended the day in tears. (Not me though, ‘cuz I’m a man.)

Metro Encounter (revision)

I revised this story from an earlier journal entry based on feedback from others in the group. I think aspects of this revision are much better, but I still might revisit it again someday to address parts that are still weak.

Reliving Glory Days (revision)

I revised this earlier journal entry, hopefully making it clearer why my student’s positive math contest experience was such a proud moment for me.


I wrote this on a day when the class hung out in the French Quarter to write. I like the story idea, so someday I may come back and polish it up a bit.

A Slathering Heap o’ J-Romeo

After themes of rejection in romantic pursuits dominated many of my earlier writings, this final writing of the course was intended to leave my fellow participants with a more upbeat impression of “J-Romeo.”
I wrote this as a spoken word piece, so I recommend listening to the audio clip.

audio clip: gnowp_slatheringheap.mp3

Demo lesson

Each participant had to teach a 75-minute lesson to the rest of the class. Although I strived to break out of my comfort zone in this course, I stuck with what I know for my demo lesson: The AAAA rhyme scheme. The slides may be a little confusing without my oral component of the lesson, but they provide the gist.

Click image for PowerPoint slideshow
(recommended if you have PowerPoint)

Click here for PDF version

Log #1

Each participant was coerced to record the log of the day’s events at some point during the course. Although there are numerous references to inside jokes in my log, this will give a taste of how a typical day in the GNOWP transpires.

Log #2

My first log proved so popular, that I was involuntarily signed up to record the log again the following week.

Anthology Cover Design

Eventually an anthology of select works from GNOWP 2007 will be produced. I volunteered to design the front and back cover. I’ll post the completed anthology when it becomes available.


Kitchen Critter

One of the class participants has an especially strong aversion to a certain critter common in New Orleans. I hoped to show her that they’re nothing to be afraid of.

Chivalry Shirt

After boldly proclaiming to the women in the class that they should accept the demise of chivalry, I couldn’t resist another Photoshop diversion. They’re all shocked and bewildered that I haven’t had a girlfriend in quite some time.



(Flash Animation)



(Flash Animation)

Various Rhymes

In the days following the end of GNOWP 2007, many of us have stayed in touch through email/Internet. After some totally unprovoked attacks on poor hapless J-Romeo, I decided to fight back with my dope rhymin’ skillz.