On Monday I met with 15 other educators, who teach across the metro area in elementary, middle, secondary, and college classrooms. Our reason for gathering was our shared commitment to not only the Minnesota Writing Project (MWP), the organization that introduced us to each other, but also to meeting the needs of diverse learners both in the form of our students and fellow teachers.
We started our discussion by listening to Tarack MacLain read his list of 30 things he believes. Tarack’s courageous list invited us to reflect on our own beliefs and how these beliefs brought us to MWP and continue to shape the work we do.
For me personally, it was my belief in writing as a route to personal empowerment that first brought me back to graduate school and then to MWP. I remember watching my ninth grade students reinvent themselves through their writing. What has kept me involved over the past four years has been the professional community I have found. No where at my school was I able to have the discussions about writing pedagogy or teaching in general like I was able to have with the groups of teachers I met through MWP.
Whether it was being out of a district setting that freed our discussions or the intense focus on writing that made the conversations emerge naturally, I was impressed by how we could talk for hours about teaching, and I wasn’t seen as a “brown noser” for wanting to talk about how to grade writing or how my gender and race impacted my teaching. I had found an intellectual and professional home. This home nurtured me, including my professional voice and purpose in ways that my teaching and coursework had not.
Going forward, I believe MWP through its teacher-centered stance and network relations with the National Writing Project has the potential to bring about change in education, to make schooling relevant for diverse learners, in ways not possible through teacher education programs.
In supporting teachers in their daily work in the classroom and not just preservice training, MWP/NWP provides a professional home away from school, that is ongoing, where educators can negotiate their own identities as teachers, writers, leaders, parents, and politicians in order to develop their own voice to impact change in their home schools and districts.
I know that the work of change does not happen overnight but rather bit by bit, summer institute by summer institute as our local network grows and takes shape according to its shared values. For now, I am happy to say that I have values and I have a home.