If we had forever

I said the words that serve as the title for this post earlier today as I was wrapping up a week-long writing workshop institute  with a group of about 30 teachers from Northeast ISD. That’s a fitting line for such an institute because, when you dive into writing, there’s so much that doesn’t get done.  Conversations that don’t happen, aren’t finished, or are cut short.  Conferences that don’t happen, aren’t finished, or are cut short.  And when you layer on the meta-conversations about teaching writing, there’s even more that just doesn’t get said.  So “if we had forever” is what I offered.  Because we’ll always need to cut things short with our students: the bell rings, the grades are due, the year ends.  Though we can always consider, “if we had forever…” and remember that, when we’re writing, we can get close.

I do quite a bit of professional development.  I started this kind of work with the Heart of Texas Writing Project in Austin and have continued it here in San Antonio.  This work actually served as a great transition to the city as I was almost immediately connecting with teachers in classrooms.  Through the San Antonio Writing Project, I’ve been working with Northeast for about a year as they roll out workshop as the ‘gold standard’ instructional model for ELA in the district. Really. The ELA curriculum coordinators want workshop, are paying to have teachers do week-long institutes learning about workshop, and are talking to principals about how workshop will work for their schools.

Beyond all that, though, Northeast is opening up a space for their teachers to reconnect with themselves as writers.  The stories I heard today, as we share quite a bit on our last day, are not mine to share.  Though I will tell you that they–both the writers and the writing–are achingly wonderful.  To anyone who happens to read this, know that there are some amazing writers out there, who happen to be teaching English in San Antonio.

What got me out of bed every morning?  Their writing.  Their enthusiasm for the task of writing.  Their willingness to dig into the tough work of writing.  And then think about how to open up spaces for their students to do this tough work too.

They wrote. For themselves. For their students. For me and my co-facilitator. For all of us. It was amazing. I’ve worked with groups of teachers off and on for about eight years. This group blew them all out of the water. They went all in. They dug into tough stuff, took on professional and personal topics. And wrote, from their hearts and brains and guts.

I’m so excited for their students. Now, I’m sure it is going to be hard. There will be students who resist, colleagues who are uncertain, mandates (more likely phantom policies) that appear. But these teachers have become writers and will open spaces in their classrooms for their students to become readers and writers.  And that is exactly what the world needs right now.

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