The end of the SI has come... at least until the end of Sept. when we gather ourselves together one more time, but hopefully not the last. It's been intense, to say the least, both in work and in play, in remodeling old relationships and forming new ones. It’s been beautiful, difficult, comforting, challenging, and ridiculous all at the same time. If you don’t agree, you weren’t paying attention.
Every year I'm asked by my friends why I choose to come back, why I give up 4 weeks of my summer (plus more during the school year) when I've already participated in WP. Didn't I get what I needed? Too many teachers see specific professional development as something they’ve already participated in. Once they’ve done it, they look for something else.
“I did that last year.” “I already took a class on that.” “I already know how to do that.”
But I see it differently. There is no end to my need (for myself and my students) to be a better writing teacher, to be a more thorough and thought-provoking teacher-researcher, to be a deeper and more self-aware writer. It doesn’t matter that I’ve “already tried it” or “already done that”. It’s greater than that. It’s bigger than just my views and limited knowledge.
For me, WP Summer Institute is rebirth, rejuvenation. I see it on the faces of the "graduating" fellows every year. Oftentimes, teachers need to know that they aren't alone. So much of our jobs is behind a closed door. And WP reminds me of this. I'm always looking for new challenges and experiences to keep me in teaching, a job I live for but am afraid I'll burn out on. The writing project is still that for me.
The SI that I was a Fellow participant in was a great moment in time when I realized that I could and would do more for kids in a way I never understood. But the 2 years I've returned as a staff member, I've learned more. I've seen a lot…
…humble teachers realizing how great they can be; master teachers passing on wisdom to young, energetic ones; The same master teachers humbling themselves in the midst of a extraordinary community. I've seen inexperienced teachers see that there is more to teaching writing than what their limited views afford them; all teachers gaining a greater appreciation and understanding for those grade levels they don’t teach. More than anything, I’ve seen people step outside their comfort zone in their teaching and personal lives and be truly transformed by the experience. Every year is a bit different but always incredibly powerful. I’ve always said that every person that enters my life, even for a short time, is there to teach me something.
So Thank you…
To Sherry for illustrating how much the primary grade levels can inform junior high and high school teachers in their teaching of writing.
To Beth for showing me how “collegial” one can be when speaking to adults or ordering food… and how to keep a sense of humor through diversity.
To Kat for reminding me why I still need to travel and how I can make my experiences just as powerful for my students.
To Dani for showing me the most important lessons our kids learn are the ones they get early in life. It’s my job, as a high school teacher, to support those lessons.
To Julie for reminding me how sacrificing those things that are the most important to you for greater experiences can be the most rewarding.
To Colleen C. for demonstrating to me that you can truly make a difference no matter what you are surrounded by as long as you are willing to take a risk.
To Colleen (Stan) for proving to me that peripheral friends can somehow, someway become amazing influences in your life.
To Tami for demonstrating to me that super organized people aren’t necessarily super annoying (which I used to believe)… and that connections with people can take an enormous amount of work or can be instantaneous.
To Donna for reminding me that a strong family is defined by the deep connections between people, not societal stereotypes or monetary possessions.
To Cameron for showing me that no matter how accomplished you are at something, there are always new challenges to undertake.
To Elsa for giving me a much greater perspective on the beauty and successes of the ELA community of students and teachers.
To Trudy for showing us how much we, the teachers, have to learn from the amazing adults that are a part of our students’ lives outside of the stereotypical classroom.
To Cindy for proving to me that Doctors and Professors don’t have to be arrogant and intimidating (though you do scare me occasionally).
To Nancy for showing me how humility, wisdom, understanding, empathy, and knowledge can manifest themselves in a single master teacher.
To Lindsey for reminding me that surrounding yourselves with honest, positive people can enrich your life and experiences.
To Natalie for teaching me how to share… or at least attempting to teach me how to share, something I should have learned a long time ago.
To Laura for demonstrating me how people challenge themselves in so many different ways in so many different arenas.
To Heather for showing me that those that listen first and speak later have the greatest wisdom.
To Liz for reminding me that “the best way to teach students” should be a conversation that all teachers continue to participate in, because there is no one perfect way.
To Gilda for reminding me how important and powerful a sense of humor is for a teacher… and for keeping me honest by flicking me off… three times.
To Jackie for reminding me how much I miss having you as part of my daily life.
To Cam for reminding me how much I never wanted an older brother.
To Megan for demonstrating to me how much love one person can spread around and give to so many others.
To Kyla for reminding me how important it is to laugh and cry in equal amounts as much possible.
To E. Jason for reminding me that teaching students to have an open mind and empathy is more important that any content that we teach to kids.
Thank you all.
See you soon…