Teacher to Teacher: A Summer Writing Institute and Endless Possibilities
By Lynne R. Dorfman
There are lots of things that are right about education today. Teachers and students are reading more and interacting more with parents, students and fellow teachers. One way to interact with colleagues in your own school and with colleagues from across the country is to participate in professional development opportunities such as ILA and NCTE. A few years ago, Stacey Shubitz, Rose Cappelli, and I attended a workshop offered by Highlights Foundation. Highlights offers workshops for writers year round. But there are many stellar conferences in our own backyards. For me, PCTELA and KSRA in October and our PAWLPday in March promise to offer incredible venues that cannot be overlooked or dismissed. On May 12th, the Philadelphia Reading Council of KSRA and the Alpha Upsilon Alpha Chapter of Saint Joseph’s University offer their spring literacy conference: And Joy for All: Using Poetry to Bring Happiness to Your Daily Teaching. Janet Wong is the keynote speaker. I will make time to attend all these events. Last week, I facilitated two sessions at a Best Practice Summit in Boyertown Area School District. So many Boyertown teachers K-12 were facilitating sessions, and there was an air of excitement and commitment throughout the day. Good things are happening.
When we make the time and monetary commitment to attend staff development opportunities such as these, we do so because we know it is the right thing to do, because we know we cannot stand still – we have to keep moving forward. We are teachers, and we can change the world by helping our students believe that they can change the world, and they don’t have to wait to do it! When Jen Bryant wrote Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, she did so to help young people know that they don’t have to wait to do something remarkable, something no one had ever done before, something that might change the world. Bryant wrote this through Louis’s perspective as a child who desperately wanted to be able to read. Blinded as a young boy, his quest to read the world eventually led him to develop the Braille system we still use today at the tender age of fifteen. This account of a young inventor on a quest to invent an accessible reading system for blind people is moving and compelling.
The Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project has created a place to read, write, and wonder. The summer writing institute is a fabulous experience that stays with you. In 1989, I became a National Writing Project fellow. PAWLP’s writing institute at West Chester University changed the way I taught writing. I began to use portfolios. I understood how to assess writing, hold conferences, and build in time for reflection. I began to read professional books about reading and writing. My institute was a writing workshop in action. I wrote every day, participated in small groups and conferences, chose a topic to research, and learned how to build and sustain a learning community. I made so many friends from many different school districts and grades K-12, and I continued to build new friendships with new PAWLP fellows each year. It has provided me with a network that I can count on for support, for resources, and for creative thinking.
I continue to grow at PAWLP Continuity Saturdays, March PAWLPdays, book clubs (you do not have to read the book to attend the book event – but you will definitely choose to read it after you participate!), and several writing groups. This summer, Dr. Pauline Schmidt and Mrs. Brenda Krupp will lead the institute. Visit the PA Writing & Literature Project website to watch a video and find contact information for summer courses and the writing institute. Join them for an incredible experience this summer – it’s not too late to apply.
We really need each other — for encouragement, for knowledge, for vision. As PAWLP fellows, we can tell you that the summer writing institute experience has helped us outgrow ourselves — change in some ways, take risks to try new things, challenge our thinking, consider possibilities. We have the place and time to do something fabulous. The place is anywhere we gather with educators and/or students. Become part of our family. Become a Writing Project fellow. The time is NOW.
Lynne Dorfman is a co-director of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. Lynne blogs regularly and is a Stenhouse author. Currently, Lynne is finishing up a manuscript with Stacey Shubitz, Welcome to Writing Workshop. She enjoys the PAWLP gatherings. It is a renewal of friendships and spirit. She hopes to see you at a PAWLP event or course this spring and summer!