Call this shameless promotion. Accuse me of having an agenda. I do. An important one. As I approach my ninth year of teaching, as I begin to sift through the hours of professional development, stale staff meetings, and reform, reform, reform, and oh, “Would you like a new assessment with that reform?” one clear and shining beacon of hope burns bright for me still — the time and relationships I’ve built with Puget Sound Writing Project, my local chapter of the National Writing Project. The NWP celebrates 40 years this year —let that sink in for a moment. I’ll wait.
Did you check your e-mails? Did you post a cat video on Facebook? No, I’m not being smug or snarky: those would be things I would do. Allow the static and volume both in noise pollution and quantity to interfere with my own thoughts. But consider the stalwart insistence of four decades: no matter the changes and turbulence, the National Writing Project has held true to its mission:
The National Writing Project focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners.
They believe something I have not witnessed in many administrators: they believe teachers are the best teachers of teachers. NWP encourages and clears the path for us, allowing us to flourish. What is the very essence of education? My truth–to provide a space where I and my students thrive, push, connect, and remain messily, unabashedly human. There is something that supercedes or transcends devil-in-the-details about Common Core or its accompanying assessments such as the SBAC. It doesn’t matter how we feel about those things — what matters is how NWP/PSWP provides the clear-thinking mental (and physical) space to support each other. All I can think of is a stupid metaphor about how we teachers are the farmers, reform is the changing weather (tornadoes, drought, and pestilence at times) and our crop, naturally–our students. Okay, forgive me. That was dumb. I’m stretching. (Quietly walks over to coffee pot to see if caffeine will help!)
I think it did. Okay. Back to this.
Here’s what it’s done for me:
- Made me believe I am a writer
- Given me sustaining and nurturing relationships
- Provided me with a means to help students tell their own stories
- Given me a free space where none of my ideas are stupid, dismissed, or discounted
- Let me talk things through
- Honored me, and given me status
- Shown me through gentle leadership how to empower others and give them status
- Provided a dragon’s vault of valuable lessons and instructional delivery
- Encouraged and expected my own teaching vision
- Space for critical thinking and reflection of others ideas and research/analysis
- Supported connections with educators around the country and world
- Periodical check-ups for teaching health (this is HUGE)
I thank my lucky stars every day for Holly Stein, too. She’s the former and now current director of the PSWP. Without her encouragement and guidance–don’t even really want to think about that right now. The working studio environment — time to work, time to talk, time to share — honors teachers from all paths. If you’re feeling fatigued from the current state of affairs in education, possibly even close to extreme burn-out, (as I was), consider looking into your own local NWP group. Even if there is not a physical space at a university, consider reading news and updates from this organization. We are digitally connected, and our front porches as close as our screens.
Now — time to write.
National Writing Project, Twitter: https://twitter.com/writingproject @writingproject