- A Holistic Reflection on the LMWP Invitational Summer Institute (What did I learn this summer? What shocked me? What pleased me? What would I say to others about the institute? What did I learn from my writing and writing group experience? What did I learn from the readings and reading group experience? What needs revision as the leaders plan for 2017? What changes will I make in my classroom or my life as a writer next year?)
What did I learn this summer?
I learned that as quoted from The Help “ You is kind, you is smart, you is important” Abilene Clark. When put into a group of other “overachievers” I leaned in close and listened. There are nuggets in what each person shares. Balancing our human need for interaction with the class requirements kept us happily busy.
Not only am I learning about the lives of my fellow fellows, but how they are approaching writing. Lots to do and think about and each thing, for me, is helping me add to my collective experiences and become a better me as well as a better teacher. I learned that I am indeed a writer and able to write.
Without writing a lot, like our students, we do not have the simple experience of writing. I have learned that I have a perspective and many opinions. I have learned that other adults care enough to take the time to read deeply whatever I share and give their heartfelt thoughts.
I have learned that we can support each other without worry of “good enough.” I have learned that people have so many hidden talents and that both the extroverts and the introverts are fascinating. I have learned that I need this. I need the discourse and the professional books and the level of thinking to help fuel my passion not only for teaching, but for life.
What shocked me?
I was shocked that for the first week, my level of writing was much like my third graders, maybe a little better. I was shocked at how little stamina I had and how that relates directly to my students. I had fallen into a supervisor role, but no more. I have practiced and have improved. I did find a stack of papers from High School and College and my name was on them. I was able to write fluently and at a high level, so like a post pregnancy body, I am working hard to whip my prose back into shape.
Speaking of that, I was shocked that although I was the model of restraint the beginning, by day 10 I was a snacking fiend. I am banking on all the walking counter acting my choices.
I was also shocked at how the work that the Poetry group made me into a non-functional puddle. I hope to work toward my best writerly self. As much work as this was, it felt like a vacation. Totally weird. It also shocked me that the Steelcase Library has a robot that gets your books!
What pleased me?
I am so happy with the kindness shown daily from Susan, Lindsay and Kari. They continue to be wonderful guides as I navigate this process. The materials that we are working with are engaging and universal. The teaching demonstrations are so applicable. I never would have thought a k-post secondary group of writers had so much to learn from one another. I have a few new books on my reading list. I am pleased that I wrote many words and that I have learned to embrace my “Shitty First Drafts!” I am not sure what my voice will sound like, but for now at least I have one. I was also very pleased to march around Grand Rapids. I realized how delightful this city is in all of its color and characters. Surprises around every corner. I had not had much experience except for conferences at the convention center.
I would say that this Institute is a way of dipping back into being a learner. It has a way of experientially wrapping around you and helping you see yourself in a new way. In a very LOGOS way, you read good books about writing and teaching writing. You good read articles about writing and teaching writing. You learn techniques and strategies and new vocabulary in and about writing, but there is so much more. You have the gift of time to really explore a skill that you might or might not use a lot. There is inspiration given in the writing invitations that gets you going in case you are stuck. You end up doing far more than you ever thought possible and leave with a network of overachieving learning geek educators to help you continue.
What did I learn from my writing and writing group experience?
I began my writing group experience feeling very unsure of myself. I did not feel qualified to give anyone feedback on their work. Writing is so personal and I worked with 3rd graders for the last 6 years. As the week went on, more sharing went on and the comfort level increased. We got to know a little bit about who we were and helped support each other. The careful detailed reading that people did of each other’s work really helped improve the product. I absolutely adored the discourse! The sacred writing time was very uncomfortable at first, but by the 3rd day, I was really looking forward to each one. I loved the inquiry beginning of each day.
What did I learn from my reading and reading group experience? My reading group was interesting. A lot of collective knowledge for sure. Melding the different approaches to a task was challenging and a bit frustrating, but I was pleased with the product. In discussing the book review of “Articulate while Black,” we discussed the fact that there are many dialects in the United States and the world and that all are valid. The sharing during the Narrative today talking about style and voice led us to an identifiable southern voice. Is one more important than the other? One thing that is evident is that the acceptable language at the university and professional levels is one of scholarly language. Even in this class, would a dialect language be accepted? Or should we teach our students that there is a time and a place for certain languages. Like we have said from the start, it is important to know your audience. I also learned that people have very different approaches to things and that it is OK.
What needs revision as the leaders plan for 2017?
The only things I would change is to give more time with the Blog set up. Maybe choose an easier platform to navigate or allow people who are “experts” or have more experience time to work with those who are not as comfortable. I would hate to see a great writer stressed out just because they were not fluent with the technology.
I would also have examples of the things required- like a link to give us some options on the annotated bibs and the annotated mentor texts. It would be great to have some sort of a shared platform to see what we have changed in our classrooms in the coming year. A Posting Place!
What changes will I make in my classroom or my life as a writer next year?
I know I will have much more sympathy for stamina issues and I will embrace the getting something on paper idea. I will make sure to tighten up my writing time and give them a range of activities to write alongside the Class Genre writing. We will write daily in some capacity and I will use the grammar lessons we learned about. I will develop ways for the students to talk about their writing and work collaboratively. Growing myself as writers and my students as writers will be hard but worthwhile work.