I am headed into Day 4 of ‘Camp’. No, it’s not bug juice and swimming lessons but professional development for teachers of reading and writing provided by our English supervisor. It’s been wonderful. We get presents like colorful pens and sketchbooks, time to collaborate with other like-minded souls (our table group calls them peeps), and the opportunity to think deeply about what we teach and why and…how to do it better next year. There are 24 participants and there was a waiting list. This is the summer. We are officially ‘off’ but we are here instead. The politicians that bash teachers’ easy schedules don’t tell you this.
I’ve noticed over the week how deftly the facilitators model for us what they want us to do with our students. They teach us a new strategy or technique. Then they make sure we understand it by talking to one another about it and asking clarifying questions. Then they let us go ‘play’ with whatever it is we just learned. Eventually we apply what we’ve learned to an actual lesson, one we might (and probably will) really use next year. We are working hard to hone our craft to make learning better for our students. The politicians that moan about teachers’ incompetency don’t tell you this.
All professional development for teachers should follow this model. The National Writing Project uses it as well. Teachers teaching teachers. There is nothing more motivating than being in the presence of people who are passionate about kids and learning. We lift each other up with our ideas, strategies, and experiences. We become better by sharing what we know works with real kids. We become better by reflecting on why something worked or why it did not. We become better by being given information and resources that help us connect better to our students, our curriculum and to each other. We become better when given the opportunity to discuss our teaching with others who ‘get it’. The politicians who complain that teachers are lazy don’t tell you this.
In a few weeks, the National Writing Project’s Summer Institute will begin. Four intensive weeks of teachers teaching teachers. There are three groups coming together in Northern Virginia, and hundreds more across the country. Teachers dedicated to helping students be successful learners, so dedicated they give up vacations and time with their families to improve their craft and elevate their art. The politicians don’t tell you about any of this, but know that it happens anyway.