National Writing Project

The Key to Recruiting: Teachers Nominating Teachers

By: Carol Tateishi
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 5, No. 1
Date: January-February 2000

Summary: Carol Tateishi, director of the Bay Area Writing Project, discusses strategies for summer institute recruitment.

 

The quality of the work of the Bay Area Writing Project is directly commensurate with the quality of its teachers consultants. For this reason, the identification, nomination and selection of summer Fellows is paramount at our project. This process is a year-round effort, shared by the whole BAWP community. At their school sites, in their wider spheres of professional work, and as leaders in the project's summer and school-year programs, BAWP TCs are alert to the possibilities of their colleagues as potential summer institute Fellows. Regulary I speak with TCs who say things like, "I can't wait to nominate this great teacher at my school!" We impress on our TCs the need to be selective in this search for prospects. As a result, we'll hear comments like, "There's this teacher I'm thinking about for the institute who'll be ready in a few years," or, "I know of this really good teacher for the institute, but I need to find out a little more about her."

BAWP TCs help sustain the project's excellence through the quality of each year's summer Fellows. In and of itself, this process has become a form of professional development: for TCs, identifying and nominating candidates fosters their own leadership as they seek excellence in their colleagues and mentor and promote the leadership of others; for nominees, the process honors their teaching, elevates them as professionals and creates new collegial relationships between them and BAWP TCs. A quick perusal of the BAWP Teacher Consultant Roster offers evidence of this process at work. One will find large numbers of TCs in certain schools or districts, all started by the participation of one BAWP TC.

As important as this process is, it can also be limiting in terms of access and equity for teachers who have no collegial pipeline into the project. So, the process needs to include recruitment and nomination strategies which are aggressive in seeking teachers important to a site's goals and beliefs and thoughtfully pro-active in creating accessibility to the institute for a wide range of teachers.

Given these general comments about BAWP's nomination process, let me move to some nuts and bolts. Every aspect of our nomination and selection process is designed with our teacher audience in mind. Most BAWP TCs and their colleagues are overextended in their professional lives; their personal lives are filled with family, friends and activities. Here are some ways we recognize that our audience is short on time:

  • we mail our initial request for nominations to TCs homes, knowing the letter can disappear in the stacks of things on people's desks at work;
  • we use a very simple nomination form which asks for a nominee's name and school with home information optional, knowing that getting this information means one more thing to do;
  • we encourage TCs to call in their nominations, fax or email them, knowing that getting a letter addressed and to the mailbox can be a hurdle;
  • we make the institute application something do-able for a busy teacher at the end of a school day with questions that we think are worth writing about and which lead into the key questions of an interview.

These small things have made a difference.

When the applications begin rolling in, we send out bright green response cards to TCs or other educators who made the nomination, letting them know so-and-so has applied. Around February, we send out nomination reminder notices to people and also a request of those who have not received green cards to encourage their nominees to apply. In the meantime, we begin our hour-long, one-to-one interviews with nominees we've selected, based on their applications. Our interviews usually take place from February through mid-April. Almost all are after school on the UC Berkeley campus, although in special circumstances an interview may be held at the nominee's school.

What I've described so far are the surface procedures in our office. Beyond this, or should I say, underneath this, another set of activities are taking place. Marty Williams and Helen Ying, BAWP co-directors, other key BAWP leaders and I are working strategically, talking to TCs we believe are in good positions to help address target areas of our programs through their nominations.

For example, increasing the diversity of our summer institute Fellows has long been part of our effort. Other special efforts are directed at teachers of English language learners and teachers of students in low-income communities. More recently we have sought teachers involved in school reform, teachers working successfully in integrating technology into their practice, and teachers leading parent programs in their schools. Bottom line, of course, is the quality of their practice in teaching writing. In addition, we also directly contact potential nominees and nominees who haven't yet applied whose participation we seek.

On the BAWP application, there is a very important little box people can check: "I would be interested in participating in a future BAWP summer institute. It will not be possible to participate this summer." We hope this box sends the message to people that BAWP is not a one-shot chance for anyone. When people are ready, we are here. I, myself, took three years to apply back in 1983. While I very much respected the TCs at my school who nominated me, Jim Gray was still just a name to me, and I had no idea just how wonderful and transformative the summer institute would be. I was an overworked middle school teacher with two little kids at home, a husband and a visceral need for a summer respite. But my colleagues didn't give up on me, and eventually I took the step. Now as a writing project director, I want to ensure that BAWP doesn't ever give up on anyone either, and this consideration is part of our nomination and selection process as well.

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