Recently, I attended a National Writing Project resource development retreat in Denver, Colorado, and I was reminded of all the reasons I love NWP — and how, as someone who spends a great deal of time immersed in the work of NWP I do not do enough to celebrate all that NWP gives me. That is, of course, natural, (because life) but I realized that as a site director I have been remiss in not celebrating the gifts I receive from NWP, because this failure to celebrate, this lapse in gratitude, means that there are educators in my sphere that I have not invited into this work — and that is unforgivable.
I have been doing NWP work for most of a decade now. The central focus of that work is improving the teaching of writing from preschool through postsecondary education, but that mission is only where our work begins. In reality, it is so much more and that is the focus of this blog post — exploring the five core benefits I see extending from NWP work.
First, and most understood, is the professional development that NWP work supports. NWP has an international reputation for excellence with research-supported results, but the breadth and depth of that work is difficult for an outsider to understand. There were 60 NWP educators attending the Denver retreat and we were all working on resources to support more than a dozen different projects from developing youth voices to supporting argument writing to sponsoring family literacy. This work is not just for literacy and English teachers. We had science and math teachers as well as librarians among us. This is the work of all educators and it is powerful and amazing work. Every time I gather with other educators in the name of NWP I learn and grow. I am the educator I am today, because of the work I have done with NWP, but that work is only the tip of the iceberg.
The range and variety of work that NWP offers its teacher-leaders is another important reason to accept the invitation to join our work. Opportunities to work with NWP abound. This school-year alone, the Morehead Writing Project will host two writing retreats, one conference, and several youth events plus work with groups of teachers on argument writing, connected learning, and alternative paths to leadership. Each of these events or projects will be led by a teacher and all were initiated by teachers in response to a need in our region. And that is just one site among nearly 200 spanning the United States and territories. Some of our projects are locally developed (see Teen Writers Day Out) while others are part of national programs (see College-Ready Writers Program). Whether your passion lies with supporting classroom development or fostering student growth, there is NWP work in that area and opportunity to develop your own ideas into programs.
Ever since the Bay Area Writing Project held its first summer institute in 1974, the National Writing Project has been bringing new teachers into the work — except now we are adding new teachers by the thousands across the United States. This means that joining NWP instantly connects you to a large and powerful network. Spending time with NWP educators from across the country this past week reinforced for me the awesome breadth and depth of experience represented in that network — and yet we all share this amazing bonding experience that connects us more tightly than any other professional bond I have experienced. I recently wrote a blog post about why teachers need a PLN and the single best way I know to build your network is to accept the invitation to join NWP.
Due to the size of our network and the vast experience represented within it, the NWP network offers a tremendous variety of support. The NWP website and resources are impressive and represent decades of doing this work, but via social media NWP teachers are constantly sharing their up-to-the-minute experience and expertise. Even more impressive, the nearly 200 sites as well as the national and state programs offer personal professional development across the country from small rural schools to sprawling urban school districts — professional development led by teachers from that region with in-depth personal knowledge of that region’s challenges and students. It is impossible to put a number on the hours of professional development led by NWP teacher leaders in their buildings and districts both formally and informally. Every teacher in America has access to the support of the NWP network if they only accept the invitation.
Last, but not least, one of the greatest gifts that NWP has given me has been simple appreciation. Too often, both teaching and professional development are thankless tasks. Both audiences are often unwilling and resistant. The public often has little understanding of our work and is encouraged by the many misconceptions surrounding education to be disdainful of our profession. Our beleaguered administrators often pass on their frustration with the pressures placed on them and forget that part of their job is to coach as well as assess. But within the NWP community my work is recognized, valued, and appreciated. When times are tough (and lately when have they not been?) that is a gift beyond measure. I do not know a teacher who is appreciated the way she deserves.
Why should you accept the invitation to join NWP? Because every teacher needs more amazing professional development, opportunity, networking, support, and appreciation. Are you a member of the National Writing Project? If not then consider this your invitation to join.
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Deanna Mascle is an active member of the Morehead Writing Project