In the spring of 2005 my mother died on Mother’s Day. Five weeks after she died I was signed up to do a five-week course with the Denver Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project.
While I must admit the five weeks is a blur, I do vividly remember all the writing. Tons of writing. Tons of talking. Tons of learning. But even with all this, I had no idea how this organization with a 40-year history would change my life.
After my initial experience, I stopped being involved. I stepped away from a lot of things at this point in my life. But in 2011, I saw my friend Sarah Woodard at an event where she told there was this thing that I might want to do to become involved in the Writing Project again.
Since then, my learning I have done with the National Writing Project has profoundly shifted my thinking about my own teaching, and ultimately has helped me gain confidence in my new position as an instructional coach in the high school where I teach.
If I feel discouraged, all I have to do is reach out to my friends either locally in other school districts, or my friends I have made from all over the country. We can compare what is happening in our states. Or we can compare what is happening at our schools, and anything in between. There is power in having a network of academics to draw from. The Writing Project teachers I know are grounded. They are grounded because they know they have a nationwide network standing behind them with the same philosophy:
writing matters. That the best way to teach ultimately comes back to how we bring content to the forefront through writing.
I am thankful to Elyse Eidman-Aadahl for leading the first national initiative I was involved in with the Literacy Design Collaborative. Her conversations and belief in me have made me a better person and an even better teacher.
I am grateful to Tanya Baker for inviting me to be involved in the last initiative I was so lucky to be a part of the leadership team, Assignments Matter. Her belief in my abilities to lead a group of teachers has given me more confidence and has given me a tank of strategies to draw upon as I begin my new job. She has shown me how to facilitate and lead in ways that give teacher voice and empowerment.
I am thankful for Maggie Brewer, Amy Vujaklija, Sarah Woodard, Joe Bellacero, and Jack Zangerle for reminding me of the power that teachers have. Working with them has been a true treat. They have shown me the power of conversation and of asking questions to push one another.
I would not be the person I am today without these people or these experiences. I have a forty-year tradition of teacher leaders I draw from every day.
There is power in that: and for that I am grateful.