I'm always struck by the conversations. How powerful and simple. To sit at a table and talk about our teaching. How does this not happen more at our schools?
We sat in the Siceluff Hall library at Missouri State. I looked around the table on Tuesday night and wondered why conversations like this didn't happen more. Ten teachers sat around the table talking about their classrooms. We had written for ten minutes, and we started with the question, "What brought you here?" This simple question engaged everyone. We took turns sharing parts of our writing, which, in turn, led us to discuss our teaching and our classrooms.
Unfortunately, I don't think this is a common experience in schools. But in National Writing Project sites around the United States, these conversations are the norm. One young teacher, with so much to share, described how she rarely has the opportunity to share what she does in her classroom. And, when she does, no one listens: "I wish sometimes when I shared things it helped others." When I heard her say this, I thought, "You're in the right place." Why does writing project matter? It goes back to the National Writing Project model--teachers teach teachers, teachers write, and we all come into it knowing there is no one correct way to teach writing. We support our work with theory, research, and inquiry into our practices. These three simple "rules" guide us in our summer work and then guide us as we return to our classrooms.
Our work is proven. Administrators and legislators want data--cold, hard facts. We have the cold, hard facts that teachers who participate in National Writing Project professional development have higher test scores than teachers who have not participated in NWP. NWP teachers stay in the profession. NWP is an improvement model that develops teacher leaders. More important to people like me, we have stories. We know personally, emphatically, that the National Writing Project changed our lives. NWP taught me how to be a researcher. NWP teaches me how to write, share, and lead.
What brought me to this place? Books about the teaching of writing. Teachers. Students. Colleagues. It all started in my classroom, just hoping to do things better. To figure things out slowly. What has brought me here? Long drives to Columbia to learn more. Supportive colleagues. People that believe in the importance of teachers teaching teachers. People who see the power in writing. People who like to challenge each other. Amazing people have brought me here and taught me so much.
What has brought me here? Writing. Sharing writing. Talking about writing. Then writing some more.
What brought me here? A crazy goal--not even my goal. I saw a need as I sat in the Wyndham Hotel in Columbia, Missouri in August 2004. I raised my hand and said, "I want to start a writing project in southwest Missouri." I started my own breakout group and Melanie Burdick and Joyce Finch joined me. Why did they do that? They believed in teachers, too. And, that's how it began.