Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Support of the National Writing Project

I just got an e-mail from the Greater Kansas City Writing Project (a National Writing Project, or NWP, affiliate) calling for all Teacher Consultants to blog in support of the NWP. 

I am ashamed to admit that I immediately deleted it.

I no longer live in Kansas City, and since moving away, have not been active in the NWP.  It's not for lack of trying; I attended some NWP events in the Seattle area but unfortunately did not find the same community I left in KC.  Discouraged by that experience, I only investigated half-heartedly once we moved to Memphis.  I'm still on the GKCWP list-serv and enviously read about all the workshops and book studies; in fact that is how I got the request for blog posts.  However, I didn't give posting much thought; the NWP is more of a memory for me rather than an active part of my teaching life.  Or so I thought.

Even though I had every intention of getting caught up with blogging this weekend, I didn't think a blog about the vacations I take with my husband was the right forum for this type of message.  Truth be told, I didn't think I was worthy of writing in support of an organization I've been neglecting.  But then I had an epiphany.  If teachers, writers, writing teachers, and/or teaching writers don't speak up and speak out about this incredible organization, then the NWP will become a memory for us all.

The NWP is one of many programs that has lost its federal funding in the name of budget cuts.  I agree that spending has gotten out of control and that a government that expects its citizens to live within their means should practice what they preach...but not at the expense of programs that benefit its most precious resource:  children.  (How about ending tax cuts for the rich?  Just a suggestion...)  I'm sure it's quite difficult to determine which organizations and programs deserve funding and which don't (a job I'm glad I don't have), which is why teachers across the country are speaking and writing in defense of the NWP:  to ensure it's not just a name on a sheet of paper that's easy to cross out.

I first became involved with the NWP during my rookie year of teaching.  A good friend of mine and I were invited to a writing retreat by a beloved former teacher was facilitating because there were a couple of spots available.  Thus began our initiation.  I had always enjoyed writing and was naturally drawn into teaching English, but had never considered myself a writer.  That mindset began to change when I started to learn about the NWP and its philosophies.  To simplify, writing can--and should be--taught, teachers of writing should be writers themselves, and teachers are the best teachers of other teachers.

That summer, my good friend I participated in "Writing Camp," also known as the Summer Institute.  It was, hands-down, the most valuable professional development I have had...and most likely ever will have.  Don't get me wrong; it was extremely intense and at times very stressful, but also extremely empowering and enlightening.  For four weeks, I spent six hours a day, five days a week surrounded by an eclectic group of teachers who shared a desire to improve our crafts of teaching, writing, and teaching writing.  It's hard to describe to anyone who hasn't experienced it, but the lessons, strategies, and conversations I shared with my colleagues changed my teaching life.

Until I started pondering what to write for this post, I had forgotten that on some level.  The NWP and its core beliefs have shaped my personal teaching philosophy in a more meaningful way.  I have a powerful network of teachers and solid research behind every curricular decision I make in the classroom.  This philosophy is why my students write every single day, why I want them to recognize how powerful writing can be, and why I detest the suffocating emphasis on standardized testing in my current position.

So even though I'm not an active participant in a local NWP affiliate, I will forever be a part of its network of Teacher Consultants.  The core beliefs of the NWP will continue to influence my teaching wherever I go.  May federal funding be restored so that other teachers and students have the same opportunity.

For more information on the NWP, please check out http://www.nwp.org/.

(And if you made it this far, you might as well go ahead and tell your local Congress member what I just said...although I would summarize if I were you.)   
 

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