Chad Sansing suggested that this weekend would be a good weekend to #blog4nwp, to tell the stories of the work of the National Writing Project and its 200 plus network sites. Check out the growing archive here.
National Writing Project (NWP) teacher consultants (TC’s) who blog and tweet on a regular basis have always been like rock stars to me. I know their names, their writing style, and what level they teach/work at. I wait for their posts to show up in my RSS feed, much like my computer geek husband waits for his latest package to arrive from Tiger Direct. Imagine my surprise, then, as I began to rub elbows with the NWP rock stars after becoming a technology liaison for our local site, the Upper Peninsula Writing Project (UPWP). Not only did I get to meet some of my heroes, they also remembered my name from time to time! How cool was that!
One of my biggest struggles since becoming a TC, however, has been admitting that I, too, am a writer. I teach writing, I write, but my words don’t sound as pretty or concise coming from my pen, keyboard, etc. as they do coming from Amy Laitinen’s or Bud Hunt’s. So please excuse me while I stumble through making a case for the National Writing Project. I may be a groupie, but I matter and the National Writing Project matters.
According to data collected by NWP, 97% of participants stay in classrooms and the profession for over 17 years. That is a huge figure! Now, I’ve had a tough time finding valid statistics at the national level for teachers leaving the profession in the 17 years since they have begun, but according to the National Center for Education Statistics 9% of all teachers employed left the profession at the end of the 2007-08 school year. I am not a math person, or a statistician, but I do know that 97% over the course of 17 years is huge! The National Writing Project has about 7,000 active teacher consultants and its programs reach over 120,000 teachers a year. This statistic does not include the teachers that TC’s interact with on a daily basis, or those that they meet in other professional development organizations, not to mention the future teachers they cultivate within their own classroom. Oh, and by the way, new initiatives such as Digital Is has the potential to reach over a million viewers per day! The key to improving our children’s education is improving and lifting up our teachers, and the NWP does an excellent job in its efforts through face to face and digital networking.
I am one of those people mentioned in the statistics. I am an elementary special education teacher. I have been teaching for 4 years as of January 2011, and in fact, I have had the potential at any moment to be either one of the 97% or one of the 9%. I joined the National Writing Project by participating in the Upper Peninsula Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute in 2009. Before that summer, I found myself muttering on a weekly basis that I wanted to go back to school. I wanted to be anything but a teacher- a lawyer, a geographer, an physical therapist. Teaching was too hard, not enough pay and it was frustrating!
After joining the NWP, I found that teaching is still sometimes hard, definitely not enough pay (I make less than $35,000 a year), and at times, frustrating. So what’s the difference? Now, I have a network of people who are in the same boat who, despite all of these things, are working hard to teach writing in their shop classes, science labs, and kindergarten classrooms! The National Writing Project is teachers teaching teachers. National Writing Project Teacher Consultants view teaching and the teaching of writing as intrinsic to the development of youth and young adults and work to instill this value in their colleagues as well. I would even dare to say that TC’s view writing as a core to the holistic nature of education. Students need to write. Teachers need to write. Our nation NEEDS the National Writing Project.
Do I still ever think about leaving the profession? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t from time to time, but the NWP keeps me grounded. I know I can count on reading an uplifted article posted by a NWP site leader from somewhere around the country or hear a story told by Heather Hollands, a teacher at our local high school about a success in her classroom, and I am brought back to reality. Thanks to the NWP, I am more than a statistic, and right now, I am striving to be a part of the 97%. I have 13 more years to go, and worry that without federal funding for the NWP, I will be part of the 9% leaving the profession each year.
Being a part of the National Writing Project and learning from its Teacher Consultants has taught me so much; it would only be fitting if I closed this post with a quote from Bud Hunt, a fellow writing project Teacher Consultant and rock star, “So, yeah, I support the National Writing Project. I believe in teachers teaching teachers to make a difference for students. You?”