Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writing Matters

As an educator I have taken numerous classes and workshops over my 20 plus years as a teacher.  I can count the ones that have have had lasting impact on my teaching.  The ones that not only changed my professional life but my personal life can be counted on one hand.  Of these courses the National Writing Course held in Laurel MT (2009) has probably had the greatest impact of all.

The fall of 2009 I started my first blog.  In it I write about Alzheimer's, dementia, and caregiving.  The second one I started focuses on education - books and technology.  Last year I started my third blog, this one relates to sharing more personal writing.  I have also been fortunate to have published a few articles. An exciting event for me was to be contacted to write a piece on the Father's Day Tornado that hit here in Billings, MT.

Even as terrific and satisfying as all that is, that is not the most important change.  The most important change is how it changed my teaching.  Because of that class my students writing is improving because of what I learned.  I teach library skills and because of the National Writing Project I am able to use content in a way that makes a difference in their lives.

Each step builds on the foundation.  I have made connections with other teachers who write.  Many of them have also participated with the National Writing Project.  So what you have are teachers, on our own time and dime improving our skills as writers and teachers.  This program works! We believe in this program!

This last month I have participated in the Slice of Life Challenge held at the blog "Two Writing Teachers". I have written 30 days out of the last 31.  I have made connections with people who span the globe.  I have received encouragement and "ata girls".  I have also commented on other people's writing and experiences.  We have formed a community.  That's what I am trying to do with my students - form a community of writers.

I think it is working.  Recently I have done some 2 minute writing exercises, several of my reluctant learners begged for longer time to write!  The National Writing Project works, there are years of evidence that testifies to its effectiveness.  That's why I felt sucker punched when our government cut programs like the National Writing Project.  Why would you cut the programs with good track records when you say you are for education?

Our government wants accountability.  Our leaders say our kids deserve a great education.  They say that our education system isn't working.  My response to that is many of us strive to improve our ability to be the best teachers we can be.  We care about our students, our schools and our communities.  We care about our democracy.  Teaching students to examine and express their opinions is an important piece of being an educated and informed citizen.

As a taxpayer I'm confused.  We have money to bail out banks, yet we choose to balance the budget by cutting programs that make a difference in people's lives. Why?

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