The little classroom at the University of Pennsylvania School of Education suddenly became filled to capacity. A stream of teachers, some I knew and others I did not, filed into the room and made a semi-circle that seemed to swallow all of us — the new cohort at the ISI.
I had signed up for the ISI and nothing up until then quite communicated to me that this would be a “PD” very different from anything else I had attended up to that point in my young teaching career.
To be quite honest, I vaguely remember being introduced to the writing project by a colleague of mine and encouraged to pursue an application.
On the first day of the ISI, there were some breakfast items in the beginning to help ease us into the initial awkward mingling and “get-to-know-you” process. The facilitators had started an introduction to the Philadelphia Writing Project, most of which I can’t remember.
Then came the stream of teachers. These were TCs who came back to spend a few minutes for that first morning of the ISI. They did not say a word but simply stood there, in this embrace of a circle, the TCs-to-be, seated in the center of the room. The director of the Philadelphia Writing Project, Vanessa Brown, spoke some words. Some of these I do remember.
“You are starting on a journey,” she said. “We want to welcome you. We also want you to know that you are joining a community that will be part of your professional teaching career for as long as you want it to last.”
That was the moment, the initial chispa (“spark” in Spanish), that spoke to me. The community came to me, not me to them, and invited me to join it. How powerful was that physical representation of community!
I made some life-long friends that came out of that summer. I have lost touch with others. For me, the writing project has lasted to this day. I keep being invited in. I keep accepting the invitation. Vanessa was clear. The writing project remains a substantial part of your professional teaching career. If you want it to.