Tracey Flores contributes this #blog4nwp guest post.
Six years ago, during my first year of teaching, I was introduced to the National Writing Project.
It happened while I was at the National Association of Bilingual Educators (NABE) Conference in Phoenix. During the conference, I attended a workshop put on by a writing project from the southern part of Texas. The workshop that I attended showcased the family and community writing that this writing project had implemented in their small rural Texas town. They illustrated the way that families and local community members had come together to share the stories of their lives. These stories that were shared were testaments to my belief that each of us has a story inside of us—waiting to be told, and that if the right space is created, these stories will grow and flourish.
I left this workshop feeling empowered and inspired by these amazing teachers. I was grateful to have connected with these teachers who shared my beliefs and philosophies about teaching and learning and most importantly—writing. At this very moment, I knew I had to learn more about the National Writing Project and find a way to become involved with the project at my local university.
Immediately, I began searching for a writing project in my state. The closest writing projects that I could find near my home were located in Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University or in Tucson at the University of Arizona. At the time these were not ideal options for me, but still, I surged forward hopeful that I could still become a part of one these projects and learn and grow in my practice with like-minded teachers and mentors.
Needless, to say, everything happens in due time and it wasn’t until four years later that my desires were finally met. Arizona State University would host their inaugural summer institute and I was invited to attend and become a teaching consultant.
This opportunity could not have come into my life at a better time. I was going through some major changes in my teaching journey. The district that I was teaching in was going through a school improvement “turn around” program sponsored by an outside consulting firm. This turnaround effort was turning our classrooms into test-taking factories and a lack of creativity and imagination was being lost in our students.
I was beginning to question my role as an educator. I was working in a place whose values did not align with my own values of teaching and learning. The writing project saved me. It helped me to find my voice and rekindle the love I had for teaching – once more. I found a network of teachers who I could lean on for support and guidance. I found a network of progressive educators who had a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to share. With the guidance of our brilliant co-directors, we created a space where this knowledge could grow, thrive and flourish and be utilized to create enriching teaching and learning experiences for our students.
The writing project is a big part of my heart. It is what keeps me hoping for a better future for our children. This organization that is dedicated to education and the teaching of writing for ALL children keeps the fire inside of me alive.
I refuse to let the fire die.