Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bearing witness

The year’s doors open
Like those of language,
towards the unknown.
Last night you told me:
we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow we shall have to invent,
once more, the reality of this world.

––from “January First” by Octavio Paz, 
    translated by Elizabeth Bishop 


Poised at the brink of the unknown financial future of the National Writing Project, I'm heeding a call to blog for the NWP this weekend.  We need those federal funds. 

I'll try to get past my anger at lawmakers who, as friend Bill wrote, "go after the poets and the writers first."  He wondered, "Couldn't they just make one less bomb?" 

I'll try to get past  my anger at the truth of friend Palmer's observation:  "Yet there are plenty of funds to arm and train the repressive Guatemalan state security forces and to drop bombs on families around the world. Let's hold these politicians accountable."

I'll try to get past this anger, yes, and write instead of the power of the National Writing Project.  

Each summer, teachers come together to share their practice.  

Each summer we immerse ourselves in thinking and reading and writing–– and revision of that thinking and reading and writing.  We look critically at the work we do with students and work at our craft so we might better teach it to others.  The Writing Project recognizes that to be effective teachers of writing, teachers must also be writers. I wouldn't hire an occasional Sunday driver to teach my daughter to drive, would you?

Each summer we recognize the value of asking good questions, of taking risks, of joining a community of teachers committed to becoming better teachers of writing.

And each fall, we return to our schools, better equipped to help our students ask good questions, take risks, and join a classroom community committed to becoming better writers.

Our influence, though, doesn't stop there, as Writing Project teacher consultants often move beyond their own classrooms to work with teachers in other schools, offering workshops, seminars and courses tailored to help them in their self-identified needs for professional development.

It's powerful, transformative work we do in the National Writing Project.  

Here's a sampling of what some Vermont teachers have said about their experience.

The Summer Institute was far more valuable than any other professional development I have experienced: personally and professionally challenging, collaborative, engaging, and best of all, fun. It is hard to adequately express just how powerful and inspiring this experience was–– I am already seeing the impact in my classroom. 
     – Erin McGuire, Social Studies teacher, Colchester High School

It was transforming. I am thinking about my teaching in new ways and now have a strong network to draw from. What I loved about the summer institute was its focus on teachers as the source of their own learning. NWP-VT does not preach about six steps to success and paper us with programs and handouts; instead, it teaches by having its teachers do what we are asking our students to do.
– Julie Pidgeon, Grades 7 & 8 Teacher, Folsom School

My NWP-VT experience, beginning with the Invitational Summer Institute, has provided me ongoing opportunities to work with a community of highly creative individuals. With each new contact, I walk away with an idea that I can adapt, one that will in turn help my students’ writing. My time with NWP-VT has helped me gain numerous skills as a teacher, as a presenter, and as a writer. It has impacted me completely and changed the way I think about writing.
– Jennifer Lindert, Special Educator, Cabot School

The Summer Institute gave me the tools to be a better instructional leader. I returned to my school and promoted writing in an authentic manner. I instituted a writing time at each staff meeting, and I have been in classrooms writing with students. The summer institute challenged me to become a writer instead of someone who writes.
– Troy Nolan-Watkins, Principal, Grand Isle School


...when you open your eyes,
we’ll walk, once more,
among the hours and their inventions
We’ll walk among appearances
and bear witness to time and its conjugations
Perhaps we’ll open the day’s doors.
And then we shall enter the unknown.

––more from “January First” by Octavio Paz, 
    translated by Elizabeth Bishop  


Imagine the power of  teachers bearing witness to their time with the National Writing Project. Imagine lawmakers listening and funding this work. Imagine a nation of students empowered to write with power.

And then write your senators and representatives with an earnest plea to fund this essential work.


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