National Writing Project

NWP Annual Review Unearths Gems

By: NWP Staff
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 6, No. 2
Date: March-April 2001

Summary: A collection of quotes taken from this year's annual site reports.


With thoughtful guidance from experienced reviewers, a team of directors, co-directors, staff, and others spent the weekend of February 2–4 poring over more than 160 proposals submitted for the NWP Annual Review. The purpose of the review, which was held once again at the Faculty Club on the UC Berkeley campus, is to ensure that existing sites remain healthy and growing while adhering to the NWP model. Although the site review process is a huge commitment of time and energy from the reviewers, the professional development opportunity it affords them is well worth that effort.

A small group of NWP staff—including editors from The Voice—once again read alongside the eight tables of site reviewers, "mining" for what have come to be known as "gems." The term refers to innovative programs developed by sites or particularly successful approaches used in the summer institute, inservice, and continuity programs, which can be disseminated to the network as exemplary models. During the "mining" process, Voice editors discovered a number of quotes, some of which we've printed here, that seemed both to encapsulate the site review process and point to the goals that NWP has for its sites.

Our site director shared her views of leadership with the co-directors and mentor teachers. She shared that our project is based upon a community of learners, therefore there are no big "I's" and little "you's." Each scholar brings a wealth of experiences to this venture and though they may be at different places in their lives, they all have needs to be served and gifts to bring. It is our responsibility as teacher leaders to serve these scholars by providing the best knowledge we have to give.

—Peachtree Urban Writing Project, Georgia

A new site, we were visited this summer by Joye Albert and Jo Fyfe, as we mentioned in the section concerning our summer institute's schedule. They were here over two days. They joined us in our sessions a part of each day, and we met with them for supper the evening of the first day. . . Of course, they confirmed the basic principles of the NWP, and they explained some resources available to us. . . . In their conversations with us, they asked about our work and offered ideas and advice. We had feared that their visit would be sort of like FBI agents coming to investigate; those fears were soon dispelled. It was a good, positive exchange.

—Mountain Area Writing Project, Kentucky

We are extremely pleased to learn that the Northwest Indiana Writing Project is having an impact on the curriculum and accompanying methodology being used in the school systems in our region. As an example, a curriculum specialist for one of the school systems indicated how pleased she was with the research related to a recent fad called Power Writing that was conducted by this summer's teacher fellows. As a result of the research, her system has determined not to continue providing staff development for the method.

—Northwest Indiana Writing Project

"Success—the dirtiest of all dirty words," wrote Tucson poet and University of Arizona Professor Richard Shelton. None of the co-directors or director of the Southern Arizona Writing Project want to say dirty words, so we seldom utter this term about our project. Instead, we prefer to refer to the project as a "work in progress," steadily modifying, adjusting, and adapting our efforts to facilitate a rewarding summer experience.

—Southern Arizona Writing Project, Arizona

Second language learners and bilingual issues are very important in our area. We had a teacher mentor come in and share her research on what she had discovered about teaching practices that were used with this special population of students. The fellows were immersed in articles and discussion about the populations of their schools and shared ideas of things that worked and were tried in classrooms around the country. The sharing and connecting of teachers is a very valuable tool that we tap into and encourage in our project. We want teachers to connect and see our institute as a place for that to happen.

—Four Corners Writing Project, New Mexico

When Seattle Arts and Lectures (SAL) decided to inaugurate a writers-in-the-schools program, they called Puget Sound Writing Project (PSWP) for advice about bringing non-teachers into schools in effective ways. As a result of those conversations, SAL made PSWP participation a prerequisite for teachers' participation in their writers-in-the-schools program. SAL now operates in eight Seattle School District middle and high schools, bringing both relative unknowns, in extended residencies, and internationally acclaimed writers, like Wole Soyinko, for shorter more intense visits, into those schools. SAL says that PSWP teachers know how to use resident writers effectively, and that PSWP is integral to the success of their program.

—Puget Sound Writing Project, Washington

We were pleased by last year's review of our site, in which the reviewer . . . suggested that reading our report would be a treat. In spite of this praise, however, we take the writing of the annual report seriously as an occasion for evaluating our shortcomings and needs as well as our successes. We also use the report writing as a time to put into words ideas for the future, in some cases ideas that we're just beginning to consider.

—Third Coast Writing Project, Michigan

The Philadelphia Writing Project (PhilWP) goals are reflected in our mission statement which affirms our commitment to the improvement of teaching and learning of writing by all students in the Philadelphia Schools and to exploring and strengthening over time the critical linkages among language, access to literacy, social justice, and change. In working toward the above goals, we have attempted to provide opportunities for teachers to come together in intellectual communities to enhance each other's work as teachers, writers, researchers, and reformers. We have also created a variety of ways in which teacher leadership is initiated and supported in both PhilWP and the school district.

—Philadelphia Writing Project, Pennsylvania

Perhaps our greatest strength is in our continuity programs. Sheridan Blau [director of the South Coast Writing Project in California] says, "Joining the writing project is like joining the Mafia. Once you're in, you're in for life." For a little town in the Redwoods, we're putting together quite a mob.

—Redwood Writing Project, California

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