Last year about this time, I wrote a blog post that tried to capture my experiences with the National Writing Project. I wanted to express the joy, love, and learning I have encountered in my journey as an NWP teacher.
Last year, I described it this way:
I learned about the power of teachers sharing their practice. I learned that I could impact literacy and student writing by writing myself. I learned how to constructively interrogate my own practice. The brave and intelligent men and women who constantly questioned and tested their own pedagogy modeled for me how to become a teacher and a writer.
This year, the stakes are higher. This year, the climate is more heated, the rhetoric more vitriolic, and the funding has been cut. This year I hear more and more from the teachers I work with how hard it is to be a teacher, and the best teachers I know are leaving the profession. We hear that President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and our elected officials are seeking to improve our education through research-based practices, and watch in dismay as they pursue educational reforms shown to to have no effect (charters) or a detrimental one (merit pay). This is not about stories of good and bad, this is something bigger and I’m not sure I understand. I only know that I grieve for the psychic blow that has been dealt to the strongest network of teachers I have ever known.
I want to re-iterate that it isn’t over for the National Writing Project. We are based on a simple model of teachers teaching teachers. We know that teachers know what works best in classrooms. We know that when we nurture those professional selves that teachers can transform their students, empowering the readers and writers who will solve our most pressing problems in our communities, our states, our nation, and our world. These teachers will continue to support one another with or without federal funding. The transformation that comes when a teacher is empowered as a writer, as a professional–that transformation does not leave because of funding.
What I worry about more is what this says to teachers about their value. I worry about the teachers who are struggling and feel unsupported, who will never bask in the glow of hard work with colleagues, all questioning and writing and solving problems together that happens in an NWP Summer Institute. I worry about the stories that will be left untold because we choose to fund standardized testing over all of our literacy programs. I worry who will solve complex problems like climate change, who will be the next Mozart or Bill Gates, who will be the next ground-breaking inventor when the only choices offered have been A, B, C, and D. The National Writing Project supports thinkers, writers, and learners, and we know that it is a research-proven way to increase student literacy.
At the National Writing Project, we do what works for students, teachers, and communities. We are out here telling stories of what works this weekend through the #blog4NWP effort. We ask you to listen. We ask you to restore funding for a program that has truly transformed the educational lives of thousands upon thousands of students and their teachers.