On March 2nd, all direct funding for the National Writing Project was eliminated from the federal budget. This move puts a network of more than 70,000 teachers at more than 200 local sites at colleges and universities all over the country at risk.
Anyone who has been associated with the writing project will tell you that it works. I would go so far as to say that it works miracles. Honestly.
The writing project is one professional development program that respects and honors the work of teachers. It helps them to think deeply about what they do and to connect with other fine teachers of writing all over their individual states and all over the country.
The writing project is a professional development program that trusts teachers. It is based on the philosophy that the best teachers of writing are those who write themselves, and that teaching is intellectual work. The writing project supports and helps to develop the kinds of teachers you would want working with your own children—smart, dedicated, thoughtful. The writing project inspires teachers to believe in themselves and their students. They learn the latest research, plumb the depths of theory, and demonstrate their practices for other teachers. They become teacher consultants, providing professional development to other teachers. They think critically about everything they do. And yes, their students write better, more deeply, more extensively, and at a higher level of challenge—all of them.
I knew all of that when I founded the writing project site in New Hampshire, but I didn’t understand how much it would apply to me. When I discovered the writing project, I knew I had found an intellectual and professional home, and that home has done more for me as a teacher of teachers and a teacher of writing than I would have dreamed possible. I am a far better educator because of my association with the writing project. My students, and their students, have benefitted.
Unlike many programs, the writing project is “the gift that keeps on giving.” Many educational reforms are expenditures on programs that are implemented and then gone. The writing project is an investment in teachers as professionals, an investment that pays great dividends over time. This year, our site, the National Writing Project in New Hampshire, will hold its tenth summer institute. Teacher consultants from our first summer institute, held in 2002, are still working for the project, providing and participating in professional development activities, running writing camps and family writing nights, working in partnership with school districts, or participating in study groups, writing and publishing articles about their work. Some have gone on to become part of the site leadership team. Some are consulting with the state and with school districts on literacy programming. All in all, our site provided more than 15,000 hours of professional development programming this past year. Every year, we reach more and more teachers, and thus, more and more students.