Sunday, June 29, 2014

TCRWP Writing Institute Reflection: Writing About My Writing Again!

Wow- starting this post is challenging.  My thinking has changed, been challenged, affirmed, and everything else in between over the past week.  And- I am so grateful for it.

My week at Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project June Writing Institute has ended.  I'm writing from the comfort of my cousin's couch in the cute East Coast town of Princeton, New Jersey (I had to tack on a family visit to my NY trip!).  

This past week was simply mind blowing.  The connections I made, thinking that changed, and experiences I participated in all have made me a better teacher and better literacy coach.  Of all my experiences, I honestly have to say that the most transformational was participating in Mary Ehrenworth's nonfiction writing workshop each morning alongside 3rd-8th grade teachers and coaches from across the world.  Everyone in our session worked on a nonfiction piece of writing.  We engaged in lessons and conferred with the same writing partner and small group all week.  I wrote about the first day of this experience earlier this week (that post can be found here).  In those five short days, I grew pretty close with the other teachers at my table.  So close, in fact, that we are all now following each other on everything follaw-able:  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.  We even exchanged emails and a few phone numbers! 

My learning partners: Our nonfiction writing workshop
group: Carrie from MN, Anna from NJ, Yours Truly
from CA, Jake from CA, and Holly from WI.
Sharing each other's writing and learning together to find new meaning brings people closer.  This is a big connection back to the classroom.  When students feel safe learning and stumbling with each other, a closeness and feeling of safety naturally emerges.  Mary set this tone with us.  We, teachers, need to set this tone with our students.

On our first day, Mary invited us to write a piece of nonfiction with an audience in mind.  Since I'm switching positions into a coaching role, I decided to write something for teachers.  After I settled on writing about mini lessons in the writing workshop, my week long affair with my computer, group, writing partner, and lots of coffee began! 

I was so fortunate to have been paired up with Holly Reardon, a middle school from Wisconsin.  Holly listened to my writing and understood where I wanted to take it. She gave great feedback- both complimenting my work and suggesting ways to better reach my audience.  Working with Holly further illustrated the importance of having a strong writing partnership.

She beautifully addressed a fear I had with my writing for teachers: My biggest concern in my first draft was that I was being preachy.  I didn't want to tell teachers what to do with mini lessons, rather I wanted to share some of my own experience and what I've learned to possibly help them in their lessons.  

After much thought, writing, rewriting, conferring, and conferring again, my writing went from what I considered preachy to vulnerable to honest.  

My introduction went from this:

To this:

Without Holly's suggestion, I may have even given up.  I simply hated my first draft.  After her suggestion, I was actually pretty excited about changing the tone and direction of my introduction.  My piece then goes on to reveal that I am Chris, the teacher in the piece.  It then gives suggestions and advice for delivering a short and direct mini lesson. Links of instructional videos from Teacher's College are also included.  My piece in its entirety can be found here: Less Mini Lesson = More Student Writing

My week at Teacher's College was much too short.  I am glued to Twitter, following the #TCRWP hashtag.  I truly hope I get the chance to attend their coaching institute in October.  Plus, I'm already blocking out two weeks next summer to attend both the writing and reading institute.  

Thank you to everyone at the project!  My week completely exceeded all expectations.  I am so thrilled that I get to bring back so much to the teachers and students of my school district.  For that, I am extremely grateful.

More images from my week at the writing institute:

The incredible Mary Ehrenworth on day 1.

Columbia University is just gorgeous:  A beautiful place to just walk.

Dinner at Eataly with my PAUSD colleagues.
We ate good food and shared great ideas! 

Writing is messy.  I do not typically condone the coffee
so close to the computer! 

Thinking about author's moves in nonfiction writing.

Adding the final touches to my piece! 

Meeting of the literacy minds over lunch!  

Starstruck:  Lucy is so gracious and witty in person! 

Colleen Cruz gave a great keynote on embracing and
overcoming problems we face each day.

I LOVE NY!  I hope to see you again soon! 

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