Constance Krueger contributes this #blog4nwp post.
In 1981 I attended the first Dakota Writing Project Institute in Aberdeen, South Dakota. That month-long immersion in the tenets of the writing project (teachers of writing need to be writers themselves; everything in the classroom must be intentional and research-based; the best teachers of teachers are their fellow teachers) propelled my teaching career and continues to influence it to this day.
At that institute I learned humility: as a high school teacher I didn’t think a first grade teacher had much to teach me. I was wrong. As the teacher demonstrated her lesson, she showed me how much could be expected of a young child and how much growth could occur with the right guidance. I think of her often in my current work with teachers of middle school students.
At that institute I learned reflection. We were required to reflect after every presentation. I became a daily journal writer and know the value of reflecting on my work and my life. Last year I completed a master’s in Literacy where my action research project studied the effect of reflection upon sixth graders’ ability to comprehend text. I thought back often to that long-ago experience as I wrote each chapter of my project.
At that institute I learned confidence. I wrote, wrote, wrote and began to view myself as a writer.
And, finally, at that institute I learned an important lesson from a session with the remarkable Beverly Bimes, who at that time was the national teacher of the year. She looked at the twenty of us and said, “Teachers, take hold of your profession.” It was a startling thing to hear. Up to that point, I had expected an administrator, or some Deus ex Machina to make my job workable. Now, with Beverly Bimes’ words chiming in my ear, I had to take responsibility for my position as a teacher and I have honored the idea of being a teacher leader ever since.
I can think of no other program in my career that began in 1969 and is still going strong where there is greater “bang for the buck”. The National Writing Project is an education-changing experience that directly impacts student achievement in a positive way.