Writing project teachers know that we need to feed the writer. We do not expect our students to suddenly create intriguing prose, sparking fiction, and magical poetry without lots of journaling, reading, and workshop time. We know it is essential to feed the writers in our classrooms (see Never Forget To Feed The Writer), but all too often, once we leave our National Writing Project Summer Institute, we lose track of one of the essentials to be an effective teacher of writers – teacher as writer. We forget that writers who teach also need to feed the writer.
The National Writing Project changes teachers and their practice for all time, but without regularly challenging yourself as a writer then it is easy to lose touch with how it feels to be a struggling writer. If we stay safely within our own comfort zone then how do we expect to help our students stretch and grow out of theirs?
This is why all of our Morehead Writing Project programs include writing and sharing. This is why we sponsor writing retreats, multiple sessions for writers during our conference, and make writing the centerpiece of our Summer Institute work. This is why one of the core principles of a National Writing Project teacher is Teacher as Writer. We know that teachers need to feed their inner writers just as they feed and support their student writers.
What can you do to support your inner writer? This is the season for National Writing Project sites to begin recruiting for their Summer Institutes. In fact, the Morehead Writing Project deadline for applications is Feb. 19 although we will be gathering names for our online summer institute well into April – possibly even May. If you are not in the Morehead region and want to attend an NWP Summer Institute then you find a site near you and check out their application and details. If you attended an NWP Summer Institute in the past and want to do so again then most sites, including ours, welcome returnees. Attending an NWP Summer Institute is the best way to feed your inner writer.
However, Summer Institutes are not the only way. Most National Writing Project sites offer a number of programs including conferences and retreats and other events which will help you feed your writing soul. We are all busy people and it is easy to decide to skip an event, one we might see as yet another in a long list of professional obligations, but, in truth, such events are not professional obligations – they are personal benefits. They are about supporting and developing an important part of who you are – you are a writer and you need to cherish that part of yourself – for both yourself and your students. If you don’t, then who will?