My name is Mark Feltskog. I serve in a high school in beautiful Brooklyn, New York. 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 skills 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.
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 therefore adapt for a diverse group of learners. I began typing text, and I’ve not stopped yet. Mark’s Text Terminal, as much as anything, exists as a vehicle for distributing to other teachers 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 Weekly Texts page, I seek, beg for, nag after, wheedle, entreat, and plead for teachers’ comments on this material.
Over the years, I’ve kept up with research on diverse learners in periodicals, as well as reading the books on my professional development reading list (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, who is doing a great deal to make research in the cognitive sciences available and understandable so it may be applied 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 I also focus heavily 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 seek to teach writing from the fundamental structure of 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.
Another aspect of this blog that has evolved since I opened it in 2015 involves a commitment to publishing, republishing, and in any case extolling unheard, underrepresented, and underappreciated, voices. Part of this has to do with my own schooling—fortune smiled on me when I attended Malcolm Shabazz-City High School and Hampshire College, where unheard voices are de rigueur in the curriculum. Similarly, I’ve consciously begun to work to publish more materials on cultures of liberation and the movements they engender and animate.
Another priority here has been the creation of a “context farm” where teachers can find supporting materials for complex English and social studies units. For example, I worked for years with a teacher who taught the French Revolution without once mentioning the terms “social class,” “class consciousness,” “class structure,” or “class struggle.” Like it or not (and I know many people won’t, considering all of this more “woke” nonsense), these are the concepts that caused and characterized the French Revolution, and just about every national revolution after it. If we want students to retain conceptual knowledge for transfer across historical periods and even domains of knowledge where they are relevant, there is no defense for ignoring them–whether they are controversial or not. Accordingly, you will find a growing body of materials on the concepts above, and many others at Mark’s Text Terminal.
Following the COVID pandemic, about which I am uncertain one can speak credibly in the past tense at the time (August 2022) of this writing, I’ve worked on developing more materials about psychology (especially the psychological effects of trauma), affective relationships, and care of the self. This all falls under the current rubric of social-emotional learning, which is what we are calling this kinds of curricula in our schools–and how they are tagged at Mark’s Text Terminal.
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. You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.