Wednesday, August 6, 2014

More Evidence That Students Are Much More Than A Test Score - The Final Week of Young Adult Literacy Labs @cwpfairfield @writingproject

After seven weeks of overseeing teachers and youth and their writing lives at the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University, I'm thankful that trusting instincts pays off. Although exhausted and fried, I'm revitalized by what I've learned from over 120 young writers and 20+ teachers who have convened on our campus with a mission to 'have their say' in our programming.

There's a bit of brain-death in my madness, but I'm continually inspired by the prowess and integrity of writers. When investments are made unto them (and for me, a little theoretical planning), the outcomes are tremendous.

Yesterday, I worked with two exceptional educators as they carried forth plans to bring narratives and college essays to life. Inspired by Sherman Alexie's character, Arnold Spirit, Jr., and the illustrations of Ellen Forney, we began the day with drawings. We asked the students to imagine one half of the identity in which they currently find themselves with (the student here, however, jumped ahead and began to already explore the conflicted roles she plays in her life). We instructed the young writers to find stories in this tension to help grab a readers attention and to make their narratives stronger and more realistic.

And it worked.

One by one, I listened to the prose of the young writers and was mesmerized by their magic - proud of knowing them and what their futures entail.

I returned home last night, too, to read the final portfolios of teachers in the Invitational Summer Institute. We partnered with the CT Mirror to write Op-Eds and, to be blunt, I am so proud of those I worked with this summer. They encompass with their written outcomes everything that best practices show for teaching writing. Tools, rules, divisions of labor and community are important. Moreso, however, is the investment into individual writers to have motivation to reach the outcome they desire.

This has been the blessing of this summer's work and I look forward to ironing out what CWP-Fairfield, its teachers, and the youth learned together in the formative remodeling of our summer's work. I'm a bit energized (although I drastically need sleep).

Yet then I think about that one line written by Sarah Corbett (2001) in her NY Times Magazine article, "From Hell To Fargo." Paraphrasing here, she asked a Sudanese man about how he persevered through the journey they took while being shot at, starving, and with a loss for their families. The man responded, "I looked at a young boy smaller than me. I saw that he kept going and I thought, if he can keep going, I can keep going."

I, too, must keep going. Our youth and teachers deserve better from our nation - especially as it is one of the greatest civilizations of all time. We MUST do better.

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