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Tools of the Trade: Each Other

by Kelly Virgin

My week as a co-facilitator of the PAWLP Grammar Matters course reminded me of the most vital tools teachers have access to in our profession: each other. Throughout the week I had the sheer pleasure of learning from a group of experienced and dedicated teachers. Teachers who instruct everyone from the the tech-savvy-pajama-clad-behind-the-screen cyber high schooler to the squiggly-giggly-in-the-flesh-on-the-floor fourth grader. Teachers who reminded me of the importance of reading picture books to my 9th graders and who rejuvenated my excitement to explore conventions along with them. Teachers who introduced me to educational websites, learning apps, presentation tools and who had the patience to help me learn how to access and use them. Teachers who challenged my thinking and reaffirmed my beliefs.


In just a few short weeks many of us will be back to days that are crammed with lesson planning and attendance taking. We will be focused on our students’ learning and consumed by our daily responsibilities as educators. And if we don’t make a conscientious effort, days, maybe even weeks, will pass without us taking the time to engage in any challenging or reaffirming professional conversations. However, in order to sustain our energy and creativity for all 180 days of the school year, it is important to remember to take the time to talk to and to work with our colleagues as well as to seek professional assets from beyond our daily encounters.

Within our schools we can seek out professional communities by joining committees, participating in a book club, or just taking the time and making the commitment to leave our desks during lunch. Outside of our schools we can always count on PAWLP to help us make connections with other area teachers. Below is a list of a few of the collegial offerings available through PAWLP this fall:


Informal gatherings and discussions:

  • Continuity will be hosted by Janice Ewing and Kim Kraf on three Saturday mornings this fall: September 17th, October 29th, and December 3rd. This informal and friendly gathering meets upstairs in the PAWLP office from 10:00 to 11:30 and is described as, “Continuity, conversation, collaboration, and old and new friendships abound.” While there is structure to these meetings (focused writing, sharing, guided discussion), they tend to go in the direction that best works for the group of the day. I always leave feeling energized and reconnected.
  • PAWLP Children’s Book Writing Group is a newly formed group of writers who are interested in crafting children’s books. Dana Kramaroff plans to lead this group right before each of the Continuity meetings from 9:00 to 9:45. Anyone interested in learning more about the craft is welcome. Come with your writing, your ideas, your insight, and/or your questions.
  • Before the Book Club is a book club designed to introduce the book before you read it. During the evening on November 1st, Rina Vassallo and I will introduce a current and relevant book through an array of interactive and engaging activities. This laid back and fun book discussion is open to anyone interested in meeting new people and discussing new books.


Courses (for complete descriptions, please visit the PAWLP website):


  • Teacher as Writer will run this fall on Thursday evenings from 4:25 to 7:10 and starts September 1st. Dr. Mary Buckelew, PAWLP Director, teaches the course and promises to include many additional voices by inviting several teachers and writers to visit and share their practices. As the course description promises, this class invites participants to “ Spend time immersed in reading, writing, conferring, revising, editing, publication, and thoughtful discussions of classroom practice in light of your own writing successes and struggles.” Personally, this was the first graduate course I took as a teacher and it helped me to view myself as a writer (it also got me hooked on PAWLP courses!).
  • Teach Shift: Passion-Driven Teaching for the 21st Century is a brand new course that will be lead by PAWLP Fellows Tricia Ebarvia and Brian Kelley. The course begins August 29th and will run on Monday evenings from 4:25 to 7:10. The course description asks the questions: “…as teachers, how do we nurture our own sense of wonder, curiosity, and passion? How do we shift our thinking about what it means to be a teacher—no, a teacher-professional—in the 21st century?”  and promises to guide participants through beginning to find answers.
  • Nonfiction in the Writing/Reading Classroom, K-8 is returning again this fall and will be taught by PAWLP fellow Charlie Keeler with Lynne Dorfman, a published author and PAWLP Co-director. The class begins Wednesday, September 21st and will follow a slightly irregular schedule that includes two weekends. The course description promises that “Your students can learn to love nonfiction,” and it delivers on that promise as it guides participants through engaging and thoughtful activities designed to make teachers more enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the genre. I took this course two years ago and my students and I have benefited immeasurably.
  • Strategies for Teaching Writing is offered at Perkiomen Valley School District and will run on Thursdays from 4:00 to 7:30 beginning September 15th. Dr. Jolene Borgese, a national 6-traits trainer and long-time PAWLP Fellow, will teach participants about the 6-traits and guide them through the exploration of writing as a process. Dr. Borgese, along with other PAWLP Fellows, will help participants learn how to integrate the six traits into their writing instruction and workshop. If you are not familiar with Vicki Spandel and Creating Writers: 6 Traits, Process, Workshop, and Literature, then this course enables you to learn the traits from a skilled, thoughtful, and engaging trainer.

Whether you have the ability to connect with other professionals by committing to semester long class or can only find the time to drop into one of PAWLP’s informal discussions for an hour or two, you will be sure to leave with new friendships and a renewed drive for teaching.

Kelly VirginKelly Virgin teaches English for the Kennett Consolidated School District and has been a PAWLP fellow since 2010. She is a proud bookworm and loves sharing her passion for reading and writing with her students. She facilitates the Strategies for Teaching Literature course on Tuesday evenings in the spring and co-facilitates Grammar Matters for a week in the summer.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. ritasorrentino #

    Kelly, your enthusiasm is contagious. Many options for continued learning and sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 17, 2016
  2. mbuckelew #

    Thank you! Your post reminds me of the importance of seeking professional development venues — you capture the spirit/joy and the practical outcomes that result from interacting with other life long learners both formally and informally.


    August 16, 2016
  3. janiceewing #

    Kelly, your point is so well taken — sharing and co-learning with colleagues is the best resource we have! It’s inspiring to see the array of PAWLP opportunities that you included, and there are so many others, from state and national conferences hallway conversations. They all give us the energy we need to thrive in our practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 11, 2016

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