National Writing Project

“We Make the Road by Walking”: Building the Urban Sites Network

By: Richard Sterling
Date: April 2008

Summary: In his keynote address at the 2008 Urban Sites Network Conference in Denver, Colorado, Richard Sterling traces the development of the USN from its roots at City College of New York, describing the events, the people, the challenges, the passion, and the learning that make up its history.


Excerpt from Speech

In short, we began to reflect on our quiet and disquieting beliefs about students who come, in many instances, from places and circumstances so different from our own. All these conversations came to be called "hard talk." Shortly after such discussions had begun, we sought for ways to relate them productively to the inquiry projects we were embarking upon. We created a list of guidelines, which, for example, discussed the responsibility of individuals within the community who have to give "hard" feedback to presenters. We also sought to establish trust within the group through carefully planned sessions during which we could speak about our own personal experiences and their impact on our own intellectual and social growth, and our teaching.

The desire to be more effective and compassionate teachers forced us to ask of each other, What do I have to know to teach the children in my school and city? What am I thinking or what do I believe that is standing in the way of my being a better teacher? What do I say, think, or do that silences or opens conversation between myself and a student, myself and another teacher, myself and a parent?

Download the Speech and Background Info

PDF Download "'We Make the Road by Walking': Building the Urban Sites Network, by Richard Sterling"
PDF Download "The Urban Site Network: Sites and Coordinators Participating in the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund Inquiry Project"

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