Sunday, March 20, 2011

To the Teachers, Thoughts from an NWP Staffer

I have worked for the National Writing Project almost six years now, updating NWP's websites with articles, research, videos, documents, radio broadcasts, and more, all resources created by a wonderful network of dedicated educators, from kindergarten teachers to university professors, covering subjects from language arts to mathematics.

Most of my days are spent in front of a computer, but every once in awhile, I get to escape the cubicle, travel to a conference, and meet the teachers we serve from our offices in Berkeley. I witness the amazing work they do—a mixture of cutting-edge approaches to presenting knowledge, grounded in tried-and-true methods of getting kids to pay attention and wanting to learn.

I can imagine these teachers in the classroom, inspiring students to be active and eager learners, excited to study history and science, motivated to write their thoughts and ideas, and actually allowed to think creatively. Each teacher is just that dynamic and smart. My co-workers and I always comment how lucky the students of Writing Project teachers must feel.

For those reasons and more, the news of Congress and President Obama axing NWP from the federal budget felt like a punch in the gut. I can't speak for other employees of NWP, but the past few weeks especially have been trying. Of course, for selfish reasons, initially we worried about our jobs. But as the bigger picture began to take shape, we started to wonder about the network's future.

Many of us came to work for the National Writing Project for the ideals NWP stands for—because we love education and want to join the fight for teachers. We want kids to be able to learn and become more knowledgeable than the generations before them. Deep in our hearts, we care about the mission of NWP.

My mother was a public school teacher in a city south of Los Angeles for 33 years. I saw firsthand the dedication to children that teachers have.

So it has been an uplifting and even cathartic experience this weekend to read the dozens of blog posts people have contributed to the “Blog for National Writing Project campaign. Many thanks to Chad Sansing for organizing #blog4NWP.

To have 50+ teachers write about what NWP has done for them, and how teachers learn from each other as a professional network, and why students become better learners when their teachers have experienced the Writing Project—to see it collected in one place, in one weekend, is to know the true strength of the network.

Here are a few of my favorite passages:

“A couple of weeks ago, one of my administrators asked one of my students how she has improved so much since last year. My student said it was because of me. We teach for moments like these. We strive to have a positive impact in our students' lives. But how do we achieve this? Well, if that same administrator were to ask me how I was able to make such a difference, my response would be: Because of NWP.” --Janelle Bence

“The NWP and the network of educators that it represents have provided me with the best professional development of my young career. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without the NWP. Each semester, my classes fill quickly, and the successful learning communities that I build in those classes are the result of the work that the NWP does.” --Shane Wilson

“The National Writing Project is much larger, and much more effective, than its title suggests. And in any given year its impact is 100 times, 1,000 times the positive effect on children than all of Arne Duncan's highly funded, political-donor connected initiatives in Race-to-the-Top and I3 grants combined.” --Ira David Socol

I can read these testimonies over and over, and each time I feel a warm buzz. The passion of this network runs deep. Certainly, it will live on, one way or another.

As for staff, I suppose the future is uncertain. But this weekend has been a great reminder for me of what the past six years at NWP have been about. If there was any doubt about purpose or what we helped to accomplish, it's been settled. The teachers are who we work for, some of the best teachers the classroom has ever known.

--Gavin Tachibana, online content manager

Monday, June 28, 2010

College and Career Readiness Standards for Individual Reading, Writing, and Speaking and Listening

Here's a report from the Gates Foundation about the importance of writing that's worth a read. Not only is writing a valuable skill unto itself, it's needed in all classes, and for college and career readiness.

This is what the foundation says about the report:

While the English classroom is typically seen as the proper site for students to learn literacy, teaching of this skill must extend to other fields of education. Students need to acquire the skills for comprehending challenging texts and developing knowledge in areas such as mathematics, the humanities, and social and natural sciences. This draft report from the Common Core State Standards Initiative defines the outcomes all students must reach to solve problems, share insights, and achieve college and career success.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Twitter Headlines

Here's an article at Copyblogger on writing great Twitter headlines: The Art of Writing Great Twitter Headlines.

What's old is new again. The art of writing headlines is cool again. Just when we thought online spaces would not confine editors the way print media did, we choose to limit the space even when we don't have to. Interesting.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Armchair Traveler’s Tips on Writing a Gripping Adventure Tale

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story about "An Armchair Traveler’s Tips on Writing a Gripping Adventure Tale." The story includes "fail-safe strategies" about narrative and prose.

Here's one example from the article:

3. Think about the great explorers and expeditioners throughout history: Sir Ernest Shackleton or Thor Heyerdahl and his rangy crew on the Kon Tiki, and on down the line from Hillary to Roosevelt. These were larger-than-life figures with outsize charisma and drive. Of the two main explorers in the book, Bill Stone is described as a narcissistic overachiever who continually placed the expedition before the safety of his team and Klimchouk was almost thrown into the narrative as an afterthought. Stone’s monomania — his entire life and seemingly every thought revolves around caving — is a professional asset but not much help to the reader.

Writing Essential for Kardashian Sisters Too

The Kardashian sisters are writing a book together:

The sisters are currently writing a book together that will be entitled, “Kardashian Konfidential,” reports People. The new autobiography will be “full of fun facts about their childhood, their beauty and style secrets, the wisdom they learned from their beloved father, and the street smarts they got from their mother that sustain them in life and in business,” reports publisher St. Martin’s Press.

Writing is definitely essential for everyone, even tabloid celebrities.

Using Scripts and Screenplays as a Way to Get Kids Writing

With "Toy Story 3" hitting theatres today, now is a great time to think about how using screenplays and scripts as a great way to get students interested in writing.

Here's a great book review on using literary ideas and scripts for young playwrights:

Writing: A Ticket to Work . . . Or a Ticket Out

As advanced technology in the workplace plays a more significant role, good writing skills are increasingly valued by big business, according to the second report from the National Commission on Writing.

As one executive noted, "[T]he need to write clearly and quickly has never been more important than in today's highly competitive, technology-driven global economy."

The numbers back up that statement. According to survey responses from 120 major corporations affiliated with Business Roundtable, an association of prominent U.S. corporations, employers spend billions annually correcting writing deficiencies.

To prepare students for rewarding work in the future, the National Commission on Writing calls on schools and colleges to focus on writing across the curriculum and at all grade levels.

Download the full report.