Friday, June 13, 2014

Orienting a Summer of Making #Connected Learning @CWPFairfield with Support from @writingproject

 Last night, CWP-Fairfield hosted its 29th Invitational Summer Institute and began a celebration of the National Writing Project's 40th year investment in educational leaders. This summer, we are hosting middle and high school counselors, English teachers, and educators. We are carrying forth the tradition of best practices in teaching writing and of pedagogical excellence.

We have Kelly Gallagher's Write Like This to guide our conversations and the CT Mirror to assist us in getting teacher voices into educational policy. We also have the expertise of Troy Hicks to assist our digital connectivity and foresight of writing in 21st century platforms.

Last night, however, we tapped into Ralph Fletcher's wisdom about writer's notebooks and began to plant seeds for our own writing. Interestingly, an opening prompt to kick-things off resulted in common ground. The 14 teachers who attended reported that this was a year where colleagues felt a loss of control in making sound decisions for what works with K-12 youth. The stories they shared discussed changing policies, unanswered questions, frustrated students and parents, frazzled teachers, and a need to be heard. In summary, there is a lack of respect for them as professionals. The Need To Be Heard seemed to be the anthology's title.

The teachers this summer represent several schools along southern Connecticut: urban and suburban, high success and low success, affluent and struggling, pro Young-Adult Literature and pro Canonical texts, with tracking and mixed classrooms, and an overall love for the power of writing. A teacher from Tanzania, Africa, will join our cohort in July. With support from Fairfield University and its mission for service learning and global awareness, our team will benefit from an overseas educator (with a shout out to Beauty Makinta, Pretoria, South Africa, who came to our ISI last year).

Already, orientation demonstrated passion, curiosity, interest, and drive. I am forever thankful to the National Writing Project for its continued invested in building teacher leaders and to Fairfield University and its community for helping us host a summer of connected learning - it is the work I've believed in ever since I became a Louisville fellow in 2002. The rest has been history.

Interestingly, an article appeared in a local paper yesterday that highlighted a lack of teacher-driven professional development. The reporter discussed that superintendents see a need to advocate for teachers and what they know works best with young readers and writers. I couldn't help but smile. Once again, this is what CWP-Fairfield is commissioned to do. The NWP model works and is one that deserves investment from local, state, and national organizations. The best way to build strong literacy communities is to invest in teachers. That is a sustainable model, indeed.

And this year, we welcome the advice and expertise of the CT Mirror. With their wisdom of politics and policies, we shall learn new ways in which writing can make a difference.

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