Collaboratively Challenging Ourselves to Move Our Practices and Reflections to Public Spaces
From the beginning of Digital Is, Red Cedar Writing Project (RCWP) Teacher Consultants have been involved with creating resources, as well as reading and reflecting both publicly in digital spaces, such as through the Digital Is blog or Twitter feed, and less publicly, in face-to-face or virtual discussions with smaller groups of teachers. Most recently, RCWP Teacher Consultants focused our work with Digital Is by reflecting on our own practices and creating resources to share with others.
Our group gathered in face-to-face conversations, as well as through many Google hangout conversations, to brainstorm and discuss ways in which our practices could contribute to the Digital Is site. Following our brainstorming sessions, RCWP Teacher Consultants submitted proposals for their contribution to the project leader (which was my role), and then created annotated bibliographies, key research questions, as well as timelines for their inquiry including a focus on reading, researching, reflecting, and collaborating with one another by providing feedback to our writing group members each step along the way. Our ten teacher consultants formed two writing groups to support one another through email, virtual meetings on Google Hangout, and in face-to-face meetings.
We embraced the role of teacher as writer and we lauded the importance of teacher inquiry. We constantly recommended books and articles for our colleagues, and we offered thoughtful questions and reflections on one another’s work. This led to rich conversation about the resources we use to develop and hone our own practice, as well as how we might share that information with others.
This process challenged our thinking and refinement of our teaching because of our individual and collaborative learning, as well the need to make our practices transparent for the purpose of writing for Digital Is. We found ourselves opening our doors of our classrooms in purposeful ways. We were sharing our work with the Digital Is community as our primary audience and we started with our writing groups. Sitting around the lunch table after a morning of writing, we found ourselves immersed in the practices of our peers because we created a space for collaboration and one in which our descriptions of our classrooms made it feel as though we were in each other’s rooms learning from colleagues to better our own practices as a teacher.
As we approached our deadlines, our writing, teaching, and everyday lives were connected to our work and one another as emails, texts, Facebook messages, Google Drive notations and calls poured in touting the latest development of our thinking or revisions in our writing. Our writing was muddled with the realities of our lives, from finding spaces to write around taking care of kids, flat tires, and ourselves – with much needed naps. We faced stumbling blocks of classroom challenges to huge successes with student interviews and finally piecing together organized outlines of our writing. And as we each met our deadline and posted our resources on Digital Is, we were proud of our individual accomplishments of a published work, but we also took great pride in the work of our colleagues.
The impact of this experience of creating a resource with the support of colleagues, can be explored in many ways, from the role of finding time to write, research and engage in teacher inquiry, to the authenticity of writing groups and the professional development space we created for ourselves through work as writers, researchers, and writing group members, to the motivation to complete the work and cheer one another forward. As I reflect on this rich experience, as a creator of a resource, and our project leader, what I found most compelling was the richness of our collaboration to better ourselves as teachers, writers, and researchers through our mutual respect and appreciation for one another, and the challenge of putting our practice and reflections of our work in a public space. Our first audiences of our fellow RCWP Teacher Consultants working on this project afforded each of us the opportunity to validate our learning experiences, challenge our thinking, and refine our writing so that we could ultimately take the leap and publish. Our writing community, as well as having an end goal in mind moved our work forward. We hope our reflections and shared practices may inspire others in their classrooms, and to challenge others to collaborate and write about experiences for a larger audience outside the doors of our classrooms for shared learning experiences.