Teaching Screenagers

Teaching Screenagers
My life in the fastlane

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Power of NWP: Inspiring Educators and Students to Reach New Heights

 Sorry for the long delay between posts. Life changes on a dime at times, my father had a serious stroke and I have been focused on my daily classroom and learning about the medical world. It has left me little time for classroom reflection. But this morning, I am sitting in the airport getting ready to go to Boston to share our work  at the National Writing Project Urban Sites Conference. It has been an amazing journey.

With the current budget situation, both nationally and in California, there is little doubt that education is facing a true and real crisis. The National Writing Project lost its funding last month, and project fellows have been blogging for over a month now on the power of this particular program. This is my blog.

Kevin Hodgson inspires me with his blogposts on Kevin's Meandering Mind. He is one of the most creative educators I have run across on my blog explorations, and he has written several pieces on the power of NWP.  Here is an excerpt from his blogpost, he says everything I have been thinking and more.

There was a newsletter email in my box the other day from National Writing Project Executive Director Sharon Washington that began with the line that “We would like to share some good news.” I wondered, is this it? Has funding for the National Writing Project somehow been restored? Has all the lobbying in DC and the hundreds of blog posts and all of those phone calls finally made a bit of a difference?
Not really.
Funding is still gone in the latest budget and the “good news” is only that NWP and all of the other literacy groups that got stripped of federal support can now apply for some competitive grants, which the government has “graciously” set aside from its $3 billion in teacher-quality testing money for educational programs. That amount is apparently just one percent of the $3 billion.
Thanks a lot.
The funding bill (see summary of entire bill) also eliminates a number of other education programs, including:
  • Educational Technology State Grants—$100 million.
  • Literacy Through School Libraries—$19 million.
  • Byrd Honors Scholarship Program—$42 million.
I know we are in the era of competitive spirit (ie, Race to the Top) as a push to enact positive change in struggling schools. It’s an era where “my” program has to beat “your” program in order to keep afloat from year to year. Survival requires lobbying, and political connections, and is anchored on other things that we classroom teachers don’t always “see” because we are too busy working on lesson plans, giving an extra hand to the struggling student or teaching, for goodness sake.
But I do wonder if the officials who set up these competitive elements realize that it may very well be our students — the most vulnerable population out there — who are most impacted. I look at the list of educational programs that are cut and I can’t help but think: so many of these initiatives are reaching under-served populations of students and struggling socio-economic communities, and now they are gone or in danger of disappearing."

 Thanks Kevin for saying what needs to be said so eloquently and matter of fact.

So with that being said, here is what I know. I know that NWP makes a difference. Since becoming a fellow three years ago, my passion for teaching and learning was reignited. I have been part of a revolution of sorts, bringing authentic writing and educational debate back to my classroom. As a matter of fact, as luck would have it, I returned to the classroom from being a literacy coach soon after becoming a writing fellow. I have never been happier in my professional life than being part of this group of amazing educators. No where in my over 22 years of teaching have I found a more dedicated, diverse, and professional group of people. I have been pushed to new limits, this past year exploring technology and the impact it has on writing instruction and kids. Here is the prezi my Writing Project partner Margit and I created (she the technology, me helping with the ideas) that highlights what we will be presenting this weekend.

Writing for Change by Margit Boyesen on Prezi
And my newest website http://www.writingforchange.net 

will go live today. Our work with the EITT grant, my classroom research, and my connection to great educators across the country has benefited my classroom practice and impacted other teachers on my site as well. So when you listen to the daily rhetoric on our evening news, the demise of education, the need for more accountability, do more with less... blah blah blah, know this.
Know that in thousands of classrooms across America teachers are standing up, one by one and teaching not to the test, but to educate the child. We teach to express, to empower, to be passionate. We teach to write with a powerful voice, pay attention to detail, cite our sources, check our grammar and know that words hold power.
So Bring it Boston!! So excited to meet new educators across our county who work with and care about our students and professionals working in the Urban environment. And to our legislators in Washington, I invite you to stop on by. We will accomplish more in 2 days than you will accomplish in your two years in office, we don't talk about it, we do it.