I am a writer and teacher of writers as well as a teacher of writing teachers, so it should surprise no one when I emphasize the importance of writing in education. I believe every student should write every day in every class, because writing is such a versatile and effective learning tool.
Writing is so much more than creating a disposable product (ie. on-demand writing or some other meaningless assignment). Reflective writing at the beginning of a class or before a lesson can help students access existing knowledge and build a foundation for new information. Writing activities during a lesson can reinforce new knowledge and help students connect it to their existing framework. Writing after a lesson can serve multiple purposes from supporting knowledge transfer to fostering memory development to demonstrating comprehension. Plus, creative projects can increase engagement which in turn improves learning and retention of knowledge. Writing (if you do it right) is active learning. Writing (if you do it right) is fun. Writing (if you do it right) is meaningful.
All too often writing in school does not support learning. All too often writing in school is not fun. All too often writing in school is not meaningful. All too often writing in school is not done right. There are many forces at work behind this failing. Few teachers receive training and support regarding the teaching of writing either preservice or as professional development after they enter the profession. This is the very reason that the National Writing Project was founded – to combat this problem – but after decades of work and the establishment of about 200 sites, most of which host annual Invitational Summer Institutes, many teachers are still not receiving the support and training they need to be effective writing teachers. One reason behind this is the simple fact that many school administrators do not place a priority on writing and focus their resources into other types of professional development. This is problematic as they are overlooking a cheap and effective tool for learning and engagement as well as missing an important opportunity to support college and career readiness, because, not only is writing important to learning, but it is also a key job skill (see Employers Want Strong Writers). In addition, school culture often places the responsibility for the teaching of writing (if it is assigned a priority at all) on English or language arts teachers rather than all teachers in spite of the fact that the learning benefits described above can apply to every classroom at every level and in every content area.
There is also the simple fact that not every teacher has easy access to an NWP ISI and sometimes even those who do cannot make the time commitment due to professional or personal conflicts ranging from summer jobs to child care. That is one of the reasons why the Morehead Writing Project offers its Online Summer Institute. We know many teachers within our service region (which extends from Maysville to Ashland to Pikeville to Mt. Sterling and spans countless miles and mountains) cannot easily commute to campus or commit to a long-term visit lasting three or four weeks. In addition, thanks to our online English MA program, we have a growing number of teachers interested in an online version of the NWP Summer Institute. Participating in MWP’s Online Summer Institute offers the convenience and flexibility of online learning while still learning and growing as a writer and writing teacher within a supportive community. You just get to do it in your pajamas (if that is the way you roll).
Participating in any NWP Summer Institute, whether traditional invitational or open online, also offers two important benefits. First, of all NWP work is never just about writing. Celebrating writing and the teaching of writing is the core of our work, but we incorporate a broad focus on literacy – not just reading and writing but multiple forms of literacy – even transliteracy. This means learning about a plethora of challenging and interesting ideas including gamification, social justice, service learning, and project-based learning, as well as using technology and social media to support learning.
Finally, writing is therapy and as humans as well as teachers we can all use the voyage through our memories, the discovery of our passions and goals, and the uncovering of our hidden talents (read 7 reasons to write for yourself). Your adventures in writing will help you become a better human which will in turn help you become a better teacher. We all know that right now education is a career choice that leaves us battered and bruised as well as worn down physically and emotionally. While participating in an NWP SI definitely counts as professional development, it is a source of renewal and rejuvenation. Trust me. I’ve experienced it myself and witnessed it more times than I can count. Even if you are too tired now to think about signing up for a summer experience, this is not an opportunity you want to miss.
Do you think every teacher should be a writer? If so consider signing up for the Morehead Writing Project Online Summer Institute if you are a teacher and encouraging your peers to do so as well. We welcome teachers at every level from kindergarten through college and in every content area.
Upon reviewing this post I decided it wasn’t very Note-like so I’m adding a few notes to support my message:
- Rebecca Alber urges you to write with your students and shares some examples.
- Roy Peter Clark offers advice about the best practices for writing teachers (including writing with their students).
- Christopher Bronke urges teachers to blog (which is writing!).
- Tim Gillespie suggests teachers should write