Twenty years ago, I started on an amazing, ongoing professional development journey by applying for the Area 3 Writing Project’s Summer Institute (SI). I knew from the opening day that my SI experience would provide me with exceptional best practices in teaching writing and, equally important, with an incredible professional learning community. But in 1995, I certainly had no idea of the life-changing connections that would come my way as a result of my joining the NWP community. I’d like to share one of those connections.
Thirteen years ago, my classroom was the first in the county to have Internet access. I could see that we “were on the verge of something,” but I could never quite articulate what that “something” was. Now I know: we were on the verge of Web 2.0, and all its amazing, 24/7 ways to connect people across multiple, dynamic learning communities.
Without a doubt, the greatest impact on my approach to teaching and learning comes from my long-time and on-going connection with the National Writing Project, an organization founded before the arrival of the Internet. The Writing Project’s basic tenet that for teachers to teach writing, they must also be writers themselves was certainly true before the arrival of the Internet. In this digital age, becoming a writer still takes effort and support, but what has changed are the incredible opportunities to connect, collaborate, and take our voices beyond the walls of the classroom.
Writing Project Site
I grew up in a home with books. In the room we referred to as the "den," an entire wall was lined with my parents' books and book collections. There was also a small glass three-shelf bookcase that did not require any climbing and reaching on my part and that held "the book." It was The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rowlings. But it was N.C. Wyeth's illustrations that drew me to this classic. Other than my dad's golf books, few of their books were illustrated. N.C. Wyth's illustrations were gripping and fueled the imagination, as you can see by scanning the online Project Gutenberg version.
The Communications Director for my school district contacted me last week. She had Googled my name (while writing a press release for the superintendent) and was very intrigued by a link that appeared from the Digital Is website: On Becoming Change Writers, a reflective piece I co-authored on engaging students, teachers, and community activists in thinking deeply about their world and in using writing as a tool for change. She wanted to know if I was currently facilitating any “change writers” types of projects.