Celebrate: Montana National Writing Project 2017

I just completed 2 weeks at Montana’s National Writing Project. It was an incredible 10 days of learning full of writing, sharing, and fantastic, focused learning around writing instruction. The 30+ teacher educators I learned alongside were amazing and represented a wide variety of teaching backgrounds, making the overall experience unforgettable.

Having never attended a NWP institute, I was not entirely sure what to expect. What I came to discover was the NWP experience is what you bring in, what you presently & concurrently engage in as you participate in the work, and what you purposefully take back to your classroom and implement with your students.

You will write! A lot. Makes sense, since it is the Montana Writing Project, right? After all, we are all teachers of writing in one capacity or another, and if we are going to expect our students to write, we should ourselves embrace & delve into the writing process.

And what better place to do that than here! Surrounded by supportive leaders who want only to see each participant grow and succeed in bettering their instructional practice. The MTWP is a safe, inviting, and engaging environment for any educator who wishes to improve both as a teacher and a writer.

The leadership team painstakingly ensures that everything participants do has been thoughtfully planned in advance and is meticulously supported with the appropriate balance of resources, activities, and solid model teaching. Despite the fact we are a group of 30+ educators who teach K-16, each one of us I am certain left class each day having been challenged, renewed, and feeling empowered as teachers.

The MTWP builds literacy leaders. The leadership team models this for us as classroom teachers themselves just like the rest of us. This is powerful to me personally. Often I think classroom teachers equate educational leaders to consultants, professors, and administrators exclusively. While these educators certainly do sit in positions of leadership from whom we can and do learn a great deal from, classroom teachers must also see themselves as powerful leaders who have valuable and insightful first-hand knowledge to share.

The daily in-the-trenches experiences we all have from our presence in classrooms each day, working side-by-side with students gives us a different platform to stand on. Not to imply that we know more or are the experts, but rather that we can share the here-and-now of both the challenges and victories that come right out of our classrooms. We understand the struggles that come with unmotivated learners, unreliable technology, and unrealistic demands on our time. We live it. Every.single.day.

Those who don’t let themselves get weighed down in the muck and mire of the struggles but instead persevere, believing that their unmotivated student will show up in class today, the day’s lesson will be engaging, and the students will meet the learning goals for the unit of study are the teachers who need to step into leadership roles.

It doesn’t have to be a 3-hour Powerpoint presentation to every teacher in the district. It doesn’t even have to be sharing at a staff meeting (but that is a great place to start). Instead, it could just simply be sharing with your grade level colleagues and a PLC. Inviting them to watch you teach a lesson, then offering to watch them and share feedback with each other.

My experience at the Montana National Writing Project taught me that leadership can start small. It just needs to start.

Thank you, Ruth Ayres, for creating a place for teachers to Celebrate. Share your story of celebration with others by clicking the image below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOL: Here & Now…Remembering Here & Then

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Today I arrived for my first day of the Montana Writing Project, a 2-week institute which is part of the National Writing Project. It is taking place on the campus I attended for the final 3 semesters of my undergraduate work. While I have visited the campus for various events since I was a student here, I found myself feeling quite different today, returning as a student.

As I arrived on campus this morning, I found myself doing the math in my head, realizing it was 20 years ago when I arrived in June to take 6 weeks of summer coursework. My now 23 year-old daughter was 3, and as a single mom, it made more sense for her to remain at home with my mom and dad, while I made the 2 hours commute back and forth on weekends.

Walking the campus this morning, I found myself flooded with vivid memories of a time so long ago, yet it felt like it was yesterday. The sights and sounds of familiar buildings I spent a great deal of time in brought the details of those days back to the forefront of my mind, and I found myself feeling a bit like I was back in time momentarily, reflecting on so many memories filled with both struggle and joy.

I remembered the Sunday afternoon I had to say goodbye to my daughter, who had been diagnosed with pneumonia just that morning in the E.R. My parents were my heroes in moments like that. Their support and encouragement as I worked to earn my teaching degree was fierce, and their love for their granddaughter was exponentially fiercer. I knew she was in the best hands, and over the next weeks, my mom would email me every day detailing all of their daily activities so that I never felt far away from my little girl. I didn’t know why at the time,  but I printed those emails, and still have every one. I dug them out when my mom passed away in 2016, and the comfort they brought me is immeasurable.

I watched my little girl grow up, and just one year ago, watched as she graduated on this campus. Interestingly, when we were here for graduation, I didn’t find myself experiencing the same flood of emotions I did today. Perhaps that is because it was her day, and her celebration. Today it feels like my day, and my reflection. To be here, and remember then.