Michelle Shaw contributes this post for the #blog4nwp campaign.
I have been an elementary school teacher for 10 years and had the honor of participating in the Minnesota Writing Project a few years ago. Not only has it affected my personal life as a writer, but it has completely changed my outlook on being a teacher of writing. In fact, a colleague and I were so inspired by our 3 1/2 week experience with the MWP that we worked with our school district, the University of Minnesota, the Edina Ed. Fund and the Minnesota Writing Project to write a grant for the purpose of creating a writing cohort in our district. 18 teachers that represent grades K-12 are now finishing their certification in critical literacy at the University of Minnesota as a result of our grant. There are three of us at my school, and we have begun having galleries of writing where all the students post some piece of writing they’ve been working on in class. Our experience with NWP also motivated us to facilitate a literacy group in our district that included 10 teachers from a variety of schools in our district. It was such a wonderful opportunity to grow together and learn best practices from one another.
In addition, I have had the privilege of maintaining contact with my fellow participants of the Minnesota Writing Project. 5 of us meet in a writing group once a month where we not only share our writing, but we also share our ideas about what we are doing with our students that motivates them to write. This summer will also mark the 3rd annual reunion of our MWP group. We get together for 3 days and 2 nights each summer for the purpose of being writers ourselves and sharing our writing. We feel very strongly that we need to see ourselves as writers first before we expect our students to become writers. Most recently, I was awarded a grant that I applied for on behalf of my school team that will motivate our students to want to do their best with their writing. I never would have applied for this grant if I hadn’t had the amazing opportunity to be a part of the National Writing Project.
It is essential that you, Congress, restore the funding for the National Writing Project. Even if elementary students aren’t tested on writing anymore, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an invaluable skill for them to learn. We need to get our students excited about writing, and one of the main ways to do this is to get teachers excited about writing. And that’s exactly what the National Writing Project does. Please do what is right for our students, and restore the funding for this amazing organization that has made such an incredible impact on both teachers and students alike.