In my second year of teaching, I was already about to throw in the towel. I was a special education teacher in a rural, high poverty school district. I worked hard and felt that it got me no further than Joe the Gym Teacher who sauntered into the building at 7:58 and ran out to his car at 3:33.
About halfway through the school year, I decided to rebel against my district norms. I threw my direct instruction reading manual into the coat closet and pulled out the “Tale of Despereaux” for my 5th graders to read (never mind that they were only at a 2nd-4th grade reading level!). I marched my 7 students into the general education Language Arts class and they began to read and write alongside of their general education peers. I shared my challenges with my professor in graduate school and she started sending me link after link directing me to the National Writing Project. Turns out, she was our site director. I also started talking with a high school teacher who had my older students in her English 9 class and she, too, pushed for me to apply to the Invitational Summer Institute. Thank God I did. In 2009, I was a fellow in the ISI and at our May kick-off, the seed was planted for me to become a co-technology liaison.
The National Writing Project does indeed save good teachers. Now, I am employed in a different school district. I am the only teacher in my alternative education program. I nurture 8 general education middle school students and am slowly cajoling them into giving reading, writing, speaking and listening a second chance. Just when I start to feel like I am stranded on a deserted island, the National Writing Project reminds me that support is just a phone call, e-mail or tweet away. Once a month, we fill our bellies and brains at our local site Saturday sessions. We write, laugh and teach each other. We connect our classrooms through various projects even though our schools may be a half day car ride apart. I don’t know what the future will bring for our rural schools besides the occasional snow day, but I know that our future is a little more bright because we cultivate and plant our Teacher Consultants throughout our region. Here’s to another great year, NWP!
P.S. Donalyn- I hate writing too. In fact, I did not revise this piece, because I know it would have taken me a few weeks to actually sit down and do it!! 😛