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

(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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