Thursday, July 16, 2015

Because of You

Tomorrow marks the final day of the 2015 Summer Institute. While the thought of summer vacation finally starting is exciting, I would not have traded the experience of the past three weeks for anything. Being given the opportunity to co-facilitate the SI is a multi-layered gift. One where you receive new insights into the teaching of writing, new renewed strength to head back into the classroom in the fall (especially after the doozy of a year we all had), and new colleagues, who after three weeks, I hope I can call friends.

During our session today, facilitators shared their CDWP story about life after the Summer Institute and the impact that being a member of the Writing Project has had on our professional development and our lives as professionals. We spoke about the loneliness one can feel heading back to school after an experience that often changes your thinking as a teacher in really deep ways.  We encouraged participants to find their peeps...those colleagues in their buildings who they know can understand and support them. We encouraged them to find their voice as both an educator and leader, whether that means as the leader of the students in their classroom or in their department or among their staff. And lastly, we encouraged them to support each other because the bonds that are created in the SI are powerful and ones, that for me and many others, have endured years beyond the SI.

As Amy (CDWP cohort 2009) shared her story and thanked everyone for the experience of the past three weeks, she so eloquently stated, "I am a better teacher because of all of you."  This really took my breath away because it truly is the heart of the Summer Institute, CDWP and the National Writing Project...teachers teaching teachers.  And so I would like to take a moment to thank each of the wonderful teachers I had the honor of working and learning from during the Summer Institute.

Thank you, Melissa. I am a better teacher because you reinforced for me the power of writing each day with my students. You gave me new ideas of writing prompts that I can't wait to use in the coming school year. You have me obsessed with finding my own claw foot bathtub for my classroom to give kids unique spaces to write in. The teachers in your district are so lucky to have the opportunity to work with you in your new role. I know that you will find your peeps and word of what you offer your colleagues will  spread like wildfire because your passion for teaching, learning and students is contagious.

Thank you, Lindsay. I am a better teacher because of your enthusiasm for writing as a reading teacher. I will be visiting the Home Depot and Lowe's frequently in the coming weeks to steal paint chips for the many ways you got me thinking of how to use them to bolster my students' vocabulary in their writing. I know your confidence will serve you well as you head back to your building and inspire your colleagues to rethink not only writing instruction but the resource they now have in you.

Thank you, Sarah. I am a better teacher because of you because of the writing I did while during your demonstration lesson. Your prompts were a reminder that those that are the most simple can often be the most powerful. From that writing, I have an idea for what I hope will be a new way for students' to connect to the novel The Giver. I so appreciated the positive energy that you brought to the SI each day and that I know you give to your students each day. Teaching is clearly a part of your soul.

Thank you, Chelsea. I am a better teacher because of you because of the way you made me think of how to ask students to engage with a text. I can't wait to revise the true/false statements I use before starting The Giver and break them down into simple one word prompts to engage them in writing and conversation. I hope to have them revisit those words and their writing as a way for them to respond after reading the novel. Your students are so very lucky to have a teacher who is not only thoughtful but also listens to what they have to say. Although, I am sure it is your infectious laughter that they appreciate most.

Thank you, Jen. I am a better teacher because of how you made me rethink an activity that I use every year. You gave me a fresh perspective on what makes it truly powerful as we ask students to engage with vocabulary. I have so many ideas across a myriad of units about how I can incorporate your lesson. You truly invest in your students and the learning that takes place in your classroom. That is a lesson any teacher can learn from.

Thank you, Christina. I am a better teacher because you asked us to tackle a topic that I think any good teacher of writing struggles with, revision. From your lesson, you showed me the power in asking a student to name what they like about their writing. For when learning starts from a positive, a real writing community can grow. I can only imagine the trust that is fostered between you and your students each year. We all have so much to learn from you.

Thank you, Jean. I am a better teacher because you demonstrated and reminded us of the importance of asking kids to stop, write and think. That "reading" isn't just about decoding and comprehending the words, but rather the richness comes from the writing and talking done around the text. We all were in earnest today as we echoed the sentiment that you would be our ideal PD keynote speaker. Each day your insights and questions added so much to all of our thinking. I am grateful for the ways you encouraged our discussions and will eagerly await our follow-up meetings to continue what was started this summer.

Thank you, Casey. I am a better teacher because you showed us all how your perspective as a speech and language teacher is such an important one. In asking us to look at how students use conjunctions and prepositions to create more complex thinking, I am excited to incorporate what I learned. I have struggled with these kinds of skills in my writing instruction and now am empowered to share with my fellow teammates to make this something we all work on as our students write across the curriculum. You started the Summer Institute feeling like you might not be a good fit. I hope this experience has proven you wrong because our table would not have been the same without your voice.

Thank you, Megan. I am a better teacher because your lesson had great connections to a writing assignment in my own curriculum. But in seeing your approach, I found ways to enrich and support my students in new ways. You know how to encourage your students to be honest in their writing, which is a gift and something that demands a certain type of trust in a classroom. You are able to nurture your students, and I know that gift will serve you well as you enter motherhood.

Thank you, Aaron, Alicia, Amy, Bob and Carol. I am a better teacher because of the work we have collaborated on over the years.  I am lucky to call you colleagues, and even luckier to count you as my friends. Through writing, reading and talking, we have accomplished a great deal. We have much to be proud of and to celebrate. Working together this summer certainly reaffirmed that for me. I am always grateful for the time I get to spend with each one of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Ending the school year and heading straight into the Summer Institute is always a bit daunting. The days are intense and the work can be draining. But at its core, it is energizing in a way that only the Writing Project can provide. It is because of you CDWP that I am a better teacher each and every year.

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