New Teachers Come Together Through Writing
Date: July 11, 2007
Summary: The National Writing Project's New-Teacher Initiative supported eighteen sites across the country as they investigated how to support new teachers. As one might expect, writing figured prominently in programs across all eighteen sites.
How can we support new teachers so that they want to continue to teach? What models of professional development will help our newest colleagues become better teachers of writing? What are the particular benefits and challenges for sites that take on this work?
During the period from fall 2002 through summer 2006, the National Writing Project's New-Teacher Initiative supported eighteen sites across the country as they investigated these questions.
Because sites were encouraged to design programs that fit their local needs, it wasn't surprising to find a variety of very different projects. It was also not surprising to find similar features across programs because of the values we share as part of our national network.
These features are dynamic, often linking together to reinforce and amplify each other. As one might expect, writing figured prominently in programs across all eighteen sites. New teachers learned to teach writing by learning how to write themselves. By writing together they learned about each other's personal and professional lives—and in the process they forged a community.
As teachers wrote and shared their stories, a professional community emerged, one in which looking at student work was fostered.
The four examples that follow illustrate some of the ways in which writing was central in all eighteen NTI programs.
Boston: Writing Is the Tool of Inquiry
To create an intellectual and professional community for new teachers, the Boston Writing Project developed a new-teacher researchcourse in which teachers investigated their classroom questions through shared, systematic inquiry, using writing as the essential tool for their investigations.
New teachers wrote to generate questions, to take notes during and after their classes with students, and to examine their own thinking. And every meeting of their research class opened with a writing prompt that induced inquiry and sharing. Learn more about the course by looking at the New-Teacher Inquiry Course Syllabus.
New York City: Developing Community Online
The New York City Writing Project set up a new-teachers' listserv as the basis for developing an online professional community. The listserv, moderated by several NYCWP teacher-consultants, offered the opportunity for new teachers to find refuge, propose and test new ideas in a safe forum, and enter into a larger professional network.
Learn more about the online community created by the New York City Writing Project's New-Teacher Listserv. Also, to understand the kind of facilitation that can support such a collegial community, read teacher-consultant Joe Bellacero's article "Keep On Keeping On."
Sabal Palms: Reading Like Writers
The Sabal Palms Writing Project (Texas) created a one-week institute in which new-teacher participants experienced how to "read like writers." Using Katie Wood Ray's Wondrous Words and selected works of children's literature, the facilitators invited new teachers to respond to multicultural literature with their own stories. This experience resulted in a growing knowledge of the craft of writing and influenced how teachers taught their classes.
Further, as teachers wrote and shared their stories, a professional community emerged, one in which looking at student work was fostered.
Winthrop: Conversation Partners
To build leadership capacity for its work with new teachers, the Winthrop Writing Project (South Carolina) looked back to its previous year's new-teacher pool and invented "Conversation Partners." New teachers who wanted to stay involved in the project became part of the facilitation team at the monthly NTI meetings, during which professional table talk grew out of writing in response to a particular issue.
Read about the programs designed for new teachers at each of the eighteen NTI sites.
Download "Winthrop Writing Project: Conversation Partners"
Download "Boston Writing Project's New-Teacher Inquiry Course Syllabus"
Download "Sabal Palms: Reading Like Writers"
Download "New York City Writing Project's New-Teacher Listserv"
Download "Keep On Keeping On"