Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The 4th Stanza: Poetic Thoughts Added to the 40for40 Thoughts - a Tremendous First Day @CWPFairfield @FairfieldU @writingproject

Yesterday, after doing workshops with the young novelist lab and the young(er) writers' lab, I was invited to do a 2-hour workshop with NEH that resulted from a 2013-2014 NWP High Needs Grant. Fairfield University is proud host of the Duke Ellington workshop that was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Laura Nash heard me raving about @kwamealexander and his book Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band and asked me if I could present to the teachers on the yearlong professional development that resulted from the funding.

Towards the end of the presentation, a woman from New York City raised her hand and shared, "This was awesome. This is the sort of work we used to do at my school all the time with the support from the New York City Writing Project. There needs to be more opportunities for such work." She reported that it's been tough to maintain the integrity of what they were able to do when there was more support from Washington. (I thought to myself, what a small world...here I am at an NEH gathering, and a teacher fellow is in attendance).

This initiated a conversation amongst the veteran teachers - PROFESSIONALS - and how all the great PD they receive is always sideswiped by the powers that be. The woman from NYC then said, "The National Writing Project works because teachers teaching teachers works." Everyone was sold on the mission and all called for a return to sanity in the United States where teachers could be trusted again, supported, and given resources to do what they were trained to do.

The 25 teachers I worked with yesterday are supposed to be on summer vacation. Are they? No. Like the NWP teachers I work with, and others who work with teachers across the nation during the non-academic calendar, they are committed to doing whatever it takes to make their schools better and to close achievement gaps in the U.S.

The fault is not the teachers. The fault is the policies being mandated on the teachers.

Yesterday, I heard more stories that are not being heard. I was thankful that Dr. Yohuru Williams, who was also in attendance, and his continued advocacy for those who work with American youth.

And I continue to thank the National Writing Project and applaud them for featuring our stories this month in celebration of their 40th anniversary. In fact, I was completely honored to have a post yesterday. The poem below didn't make the final cut for the blog due to my excessive nature as a writer. For this reason, I post the 4th stanza here.

President Obama once had Henry Louis Gates and a police officer over for a beer. Here's what I'd like to suggest: Arne and Barak, how about a pint or two with me in Connecticut? Or Elyse Eidman-Aadahl in California. There's a much needed conversation about how to best support teachers in the United States. I'm thankful for the SEED work the last few years and my recommendation is: let's build off the model that works.

(A Poem)

N otebooks. Writers’ notebooks
a nd the seed-rich soil of ideas, those hooks,
t he sketches and doodles of prose, those looks,
i ntellectual tomfoolerly from the nooks
o f readers, thinkers, artists and word-crooks,
n it-picking imagination (some of us rooks
a dvancing our teaching). We are the pedagogical cooks
l earning to laugh and laughing to learn with love. Shucks:

W hy did the fungi leave the party? Because there wasn’t mush-
r oom! Why was the tomato red? Because
i t saw the salad dressing! Why should you never fly with Peter Pan?
t hat’s easy. You’ll never, never land! Why did the scientist
i nstall a knocker on his door? To win the
n o-bell prize! What did the stamp say to the envelope? Stick with me. We’ll
g o places! A writer knows how to laugh.

P ick up your room! Brush your teeth! Take out the trash!
r each for the stars! Shoot for the moon! Crandall, you’re being an a@@!
o rganize these files! Sweep the floor! Go mow the lawn!
j ust stop picking on your sister: You’re the devil’s spawn!
e at your broccoli! Make your bed! Put your toys away!
c lean the dishes! Pick up the poop! You grew up in Clay (and
t hese are the words your Mommy & Daddy would say).

4 0 years ago, James Gray had an idea. 1974.
0 of us knew what his project would do, but we’d explore, &
t oday with its mission for writing, the core invests in 200 sites. Through it, wow,
h ow the work delights!

A braham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
(n ational writing project folks don’t await it, they display it.)
n elson mandela wrote, “Education
i s the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
(v oila! this is how NWP twirls, whirls, and swirls)
e. e. cummings penned, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you
r eally are.” (Fellows read as writers and, with books, they explore).
s onia sanchez admitted, “I write to keep in contact with our
a ncestors and to spread truth to people.” (We stand tall
r each deep, and leap over the scholastic steeple).
y es, we are NWP and it is through writing we set students free…

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