Six years ago, I attended a writing conference on a Saturday morning in Grand Rapids. I chose the conference to help me learn how to be a better writing teacher. I had no idea that one single conference would lead to a life-changing experience. Once there, I bumped into a fellow early-career teacher I’d seen at other professional development opportunities through our county – only she was “in” with these people. She was part of the this group that was hosting the event, and the presentations I attended, the conversations I had (and overheard) were exciting. I so wanted to be part of something like this. To be surrounded by, not only teachers, but writers.
So, I asked a few questions and before I knew it, I’d submitted a lengthy application, driven to downtown Grand Rapids, for a group interview and began developing plans to create my first teaching demonstration, a core requirement for the Invitational Summer Institute. That summer, I wrote, read, revised, laughed, cried, and analyzed so many parts of my teaching, my learning, and my overall being, that I left the four-week course with a greater sense of what “professional development” even meant.
Even then, it was just the beginning. In November 2005, I traveled to Pittsburgh to attend my first ever Annual Meeting. If I thought there was a group to belong to in West Michigan, imagine my shock and awe to realize that small group of teachers was part of a much larger, national network of educational professionals.
Once again, I was amazed and once again inspired by the sessions I attended. Through my local site connection, and refueled by what I’d experienced, I continued to read more, write more, revise my lesson plans and take risks with my students in ways that afforded them better opportunities to grow. Each time, I think that I’ve “done” the writing project, there is some new program or initiative that offers a different challenge or task, with the same basic goal – to improve education for our students through teachers teaching teachers.
Having connected with the National Writing Project after just one year of teaching, I know that who I am as a teacher is in every way linked to the growth and development this organization has offered. While I realize that in spite of everything, the teachers and leaders in this network will do everything possible to keep the network functioning in some capacity, I must admit that this news today is more than a little concerning.