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Highlights from We Got This

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Leave a comment (below) for a chance to win a copy of Cornelius’s new book.

I’ve attended 14 TCRWP summer institutes since I began my teaching career. I’ve learned countless things about becoming a better teacher of writers. Through the years, I’ve also learned which afternoon choice sessions fill up the fastest due to the topic, presenter, or both. For instance, I’ve learned to power-walk to any session Cornelius Minor is leading since nearly every session I’ve attended with Cornelius is standing-room only. While being smushed into a too-small room with lots of people isn’t my thing, I make an exception when I have the opportunity to listen to Cornelius present since he is an energetic, inspirational speaker.

You don’t have to travel to NYC and cram yourself into a room to get a taste of Cornelius’s insight and expertise. His book, We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be, was released from Heinemann a few weeks ago. What you’ll find over the course of his book is the inspiration you need to effectively listen to kids, disrupt the status quo in your classroom, change the way you teach when given a curriculum or mandate doesn’t seem good for kids (without getting written up for insubordination!), and redesigning curriculum so it works for your students. Cornelius packed all of this — and more! — into a book of about 150 pages. It includes graphics, pull-out quotes, and online companion resources (with completed sample templates in the book).
One of the most important messages of Cornelius’s book is the importance of listening to students. In fact, the first and fourth chapters (i.e., “Begin by Listening” and “Show Kids That You Hear Them”, respectively) are devoted to the notion of really listening to kids: what’s important to them, what they’re telling you, what they aren’t saying to you, holding regularly-scheduled class meetings in which power is shared, etc. Cornelius explains how he actually listens to kids:
So much work goes into listening. It does not start at the site of the conversation. It starts when you work toward creating the context for rich dialogue to happen. You need to create and maintain the kind of community that will help kids feel safe enough to be honest with you (2019, 81).
Also important is chapter three, “Do Your Homework and Then Go for It.” Last summer, I took an advanced session, Apps and Tools That Can Add Vigor and Reach to Your Teaching of Writing (K-8), with Cornelius at the Summer Writing Institute. In this section, we spent a great deal of time thinking about the topics presented in chapter three, which helps you understand how to go about changing things that aren’t going well in your classroom. I was delighted to see this in We Got This since this change protocol provides a structure for identifying and changing things that aren’t working. After identifying a problem, Cornelius suggests doing some reading, conducting in-school research with a small sample of students, making a week-long plan for implementing a change, measuring the impact the change has on kids, and — finally — communicating your findings to a principal or department chair. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what if you could do something different in your classroom, then I’d suggest spending ample time with chapter three.
Cornelius opened chapter five, “Make Curriculum Work for Your Kids,” with a story about Mrs. Davenport who was a teacher Cornelius was assigned to coach, but who “spent her days schooling” him. Cornelius summed up their conversation about a curriculum guide by stating that “[A]ny curriculum or program that we buy, adopt, or create is incomplete until it includes our students and until it includes us” (2019, 104). The remainder of chapter five provides teachers with ways to use a Universal-Design-for-Learning framework, how to think deeply about what you’re being asked to teach, and how to understand what test prep is asking teachers to do so that doesn’t feel soul-crushing.
I’m certain you’ll find We Got This as inspiring as attending an in-person session with Cornelius himself. (Bonus: You can read from the comfort of your couch!) When you finish reading We Got This, you will be ready to move beyond the status quo so you will feel more confident about the way you are meeting the needs of all of the young people who you have been entrusted to your care for this year and beyond.
PEEK INSIDE OF WE GOT THIS:
The following images are some of my favorite charts and tools from Cornelius’s book. They were provided with permission of Heinemann Publishing, 2019.
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GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:
  • This giveaway is for a copy of We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be. Thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a print copy of this book.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Friday, February 1st at 6:00 a.m. EDT. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. His/her name will be announced at the bottom of this blog post no later than Sunday, February 3rd.
  • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Heinemann will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – WE GOT THIS. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
Comments are now closed.
Thanks to everyone who left a comment about We Got This. MacKay-Logue’s commenter number was selected so she’ll receive a copy of Cornelius’ book.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

52 thoughts on “Highlights from We Got This Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for spotlighting this book, Stacey! I tend to read PD books over the summer and thus one is already on my 2019 list! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

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  2. There is a lot to think about packed into this post. My favorite is about listening and this quote, “It does not start at the site of the conversation”. I’m still thinking about that…

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  3. I too, run to any breakout sessions Cornelius offers!! I now arrive early, even if that means I leave another session early to make sure I can squeeze into whatever room he’s in. I even got a chair once! Can’t wait to read this book!

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  4. Sounds just what you need at this time of year to invigorate your teaching and get you and your students motivated to keep learning through that period between winter – testing – summer!!!

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  5. This book looks great! I’ve already gotten some good ideas to try from the sample pages you’ve shared–thank you (and (Heinemann!)!

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  6. This feels like serendipity! My morning meditation today was invaded by thoughts and worries about some things going on in our school and now I happened upon this post about a book that feels like a map to help us get started on the journey of addressing the problem! #grateful

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  7. It will be great to win a copy! I seriously need to feel like:I’ve got this! I have an ever-growing wish list for books and it really sounds like this book is a must have!

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  8. I so appreciate Cornelius’ vision for the kinds of classroom communities we can create and his practical tips in supporting us to do that important work.

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  9. Many of these ideas can be used at any education level. I work in higher ed and some of the same issues and problems used here for examples are the same ones we encounter with students at the university level. Can’t wait to read this book!

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  10. I was also fortunate to be able to attend a coaching institute run by Cornelius Minor and could NOT wait to get this book! I pre-ordered it a month before it was published and it is fabulous! I am not a writing teacher, I am a technology coach and Cornelius’s message is universal for ALL teachers. The space that many of use have to work in – the space between what IS and what COULD be – is uncomfortable, often lonely and (to quote Cornelius) “soul crushing”. Thank you for shedding a spotlight on this book! We Got This!

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  11. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Loving the title and topic already. I remember seeing Cornelius on a Vimeo video. I was impressed by his style and kept wondering if I would ever present at one of the summer institutes. I haven’t seen him in person yet, but I’m super excited to read his book!!!

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  12. My whole team are HUGE fans of Cornelius. When I was at the Oct. Teacher’s College Essay Institute, I snuck in his office and took a picture of his book shelf to share with my colleagues! Love his work!

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  13. This quotes really struck me, “the notion of really listening to kids: what’s important to them, what they’re telling you, what they aren’t saying to you,” As we finish the end of the second quarter today, I am feeling inundated with grading, report card comments, upcoming tests, standards that haven’t yet been “taught”, observations, etc…. and yet nowhere in my thoughts are my students – the reason I am here. I am definitely putting this book on my wishlist!

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  14. I work for a a program that allows inner-city students to attend suburban public schools through an application system. The goal is to reduce racial, ethnic and racial isolation and to improve academic achievement. As an instructional coach, I am very interested in culturally-informed practices and creating a classroom/school community that is inclusive and safe for all. I have heard amazing things about Cornelius Minor and would love to read this book and explore it with my colleagues!

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  15. This book is on my to read list. Thank you for the detailed review. My district uses the UDL framework, so chapter 5 is of particular interest to me. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy!

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