My name is Mark Feltskog. I served for just over fifteen years in three different schools in New York City. I’ve worked in a variety of capacities with children and adolescents since 1990; I’ve worked as a teacher for the past 18 years. These days, I prefer to characterize myself as a literacy teacher. By this locution, I mean that I work with students who, for a variety of reasons, lack the requisite literacy to function adequately, and therefore productively or rewardingly, in school. As often as not this means that a student lacks an adequate fund of prior knowledge–i.e. academic or even basic communicational vocabularies, procedural knowledge, reading skills, and writing ability. Furthermore, students may lack the cognitive ability to understand the curriculum–or they may learn idiosyncratically, and need the curriculum adapted to meet that idiosyncrasy. I seek to find ways to help students surmount these and other learning challenges. In general, I perceive myself, as an educator, working along a continuum that my students inhabit and–I fervently hope–move up.
When I arrived in my first New York City classroom in the fall of 2003, in the South Bronx neighborhood about which Jonathan Kozol has written a great deal, both in Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation and The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, I found little there but a few battered desks, a couple of filing cabinets whose drawers barely opened, and a lot of rodent feces. I had nothing in the way of a classroom library, supplies, or, really, any of the things one needs to educate children. When I say I had nothing, I really do mean nothing. I immediately understood that if I wanted actual work for my students to use for building understanding, I would need to produce it myself. I also knew that I never wanted to find myself in that situation again; I knew I needed a portable library of my own material. Moreover, very early on in my tenure as a special education teacher I realized that I needed a wide and flexible curriculum–that is to say, various and variable work material I could quickly edit and adapt for a diverse group of struggling learners. I began typing text, and I’ve not stopped yet.
Mark’s Text Terminal is the fruit of my labor. This blog exists, as much as anything, as a vehicle for distributing to other interested teachers (and parents and students, of course) the materials I’ve developed. My motive in one respect is entirely selfish: I’m interested in peer review of these materials, which is why, as I say on the About Posts & Texts page (and, ad nauseum, with every documents post on this blog), I seek, beg for, nag after, wheedle, entreat, and plead for the comments of teachers, parents, and students on this material. Also, I hoped and continue to hope to begin meeting with similarly pedagogically inclined colleagues, wherever they may be, to discuss best practices for meeting the needs of struggling learners.
Over the years, I’ve kept up with research on struggling learners in periodicals, as well as reading the books on my professional development reading (and if you can use it, here is the list of reference books I use for planning). I have probably taken something, in terms of pedagogical planning, from every one of these books, That said, I rely primarily on the research and writing of a relatively small group of scholars, in particular Kylene Beers, Thomas G. Gunning, Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, Robert Mager and Daniel Willingham. Over time, I have also developed a great deal of respect for the American Federation of Teachers’ excellent quarterly, The American Educator, as a first-rate quarterly journal of pedagogical research and practice. I particularly recommend the “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” column by Daniel Willingham in that periodical. Professor Willingham is doing a great deal to make research in the cognitive sciences available, understandable, and applicable to classroom practice.
In my teaching practice, I seek to assist students first and foremost in developing their understanding of their own learning styles–I want students to learn how they learn. But, as above, I focus on literacy issues in the fullest sense of the term. Everything our students do in school they do using the medium of language. Without a solid working knowledge of the English language, students will–and do, in my experience–find school a miserable experience indeed. I work to assist struggling readers from basic phonemic awareness to advanced comprehension; I teach writing from the elements of a declarative sentences to synthetic research papers. I work to build the vocabularies students need to understand what they hear in class, and what they need to say in class.
That’s Mark’s Text Terminal in a nutshell. The materials I post here are for teachers’ use. All the materials I write and post here are copyrighted–please don’t sell them for your own gain.
Bona Fides: I am on the job market for the 2021-2022 school year. If you’re interested in reviewing my credentials, please consider taking a look at my my LinkedIn profile. I can also, at your request, send you my resume with a cover letter. If you want to contact me, simply leave your name and email address in a comment. Because I moderate all comments, you won’t be exposing your email address to the open Internet. I’ll take your email address and delete your comment, then get back to you.
About the banner photograph: In 1994, I had an opportunity to travel to Russia to spend a month working in an orphanage in a town called Mstyora (pronounced Mist-your-ah). The town is famous for its school for training artisans in the craft of painting miniatures on tiny wooden boxes. Most of the kids in the Mstyora Detsky Dom (Mstyora Children’s Home) were, using the broadest sense of the term, orphaned; one brother and sister pair arrived during my stay whose parents had abandoned them at the Ukraine Train Station in Moscow. Anyway, this is a group of children waiting at the door of my quarters, exhorting me to join them in a game of lapta, a bat and ball game similar to Cricket that Russians have played since the 14th century.