National Writing Project

Growing Reflective Practitioners

By: Grace Hall McEntee
Date: January 2008

Summary: McEntee documents how she and former Boston Writing Project director Joe Check worked with teachers as they "found their way from writing to reflective practice."


Grace Hall McEntee explores every aspect of her work at a series of writing retreats hosted by the Boston Writing Project. She describes the selection of candidates; codirecting, with Joe Check, the initial prompt that inspired participants' confidence; the validation that comes with acceptance into the group; the work toward a focused draft; the continuing expansion and revision beyond the retreat; the regrouping for revision, editing, and publication; and finally the writers' affirmation that this writing experience had been a catalyst for change in their classrooms.

Here McEntee uses the metaphor of a caterpillar to describe the evolution of teachers who participated in the retreat:

We are akin to caterpillars, all of us. At some critical moment through our own willpower or through the assistance of others we can enter a chrysalis, evolve through an amorphous state, and emerge changed. When practitioners came to a retreat to write about practice with Joe Check and me, some were able to do that. They moved through a period of writing just to write and sharing just to share. When they emerged from the cocoon of the retreat and returned to their schools and classroom, some felt different. From this first step of a yearlong process, intended to nurture education practitioner-writers for publication, they had emerged like delicate butterflies. As evolving reflective practitioners they flew in startling hues and in all of their fragility back to schools, which more often than not are the antithesis of a field of flowers.

This material is reprinted by permission of the Publisher. From Grace Hall McEntee, John Appleby, JoAnne Dowd, Jan Grant, Simon Hole, Peggy Silva, and Joseph Check, At the Heart of Teaching: A Guide to Reflective Practice. New York: Teachers College Press © 2003 by Teachers College, Columbia University. All rights reserved.

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