Report from the NWP Spring Meeting 2018

I’m just back from a trip to Washington, D.C., where I was participating in the National Writing Project’s final meeting relating to the Building New Pathways to Teacher Leadership work. We had a great chance to share and begin to disseminate the resources generated over this two and a half year deep dive into the NWP’s past, present, and future.

The official description of the project is it’s a three legged stool of opportunities and supports for teachers to develop as teacher leaders. The three legs of this particular stool, for the NWP, are:

  1. A website called Think Learn Lead, which is a curation of NWP resources that help teachers lead within and beyond the organization. The website is a pile of really useful stuff, from theoretical to extremely practical. And it continues to get fiddled with, so the collection will continue to improve.
  2. A badge system that will help to identify and credential teacher leaders within and beyond the NWP network who are “qualified to do the work of the the Writing Project in the name of the Writing Project.” ((That’s how Elyse describes it.  And since she’s the Executive Director of the NWP, I think she’s the right person to do the describing.))
  3. A pilot group of local site design teams who have been designing and implementing new ways of doing PD within the NWP network. ((They just released highly detailed reports of their experiments and how things worked – or didn’t. You didn’t know you wanted to read these – but you really do.))

My job as co-leader of the badging team was to help this very large network ask itself some very hard questions about what it means to be a teacher leader, and what it means to do our work of professional development with and for teachers.

It’s been incredible work – because in many ways  I basically got to be a petulant two-year-old asking the NWP “Why? Why? Why?”  Why do we do this entry experience this way?  Why does it have to look like this?  Why is the audience for this thing those people. You get the idea.

The badges are coming but what’s more important is we’ve helped the network better understand, or at least we’ve attempted to describe, a series of social practices that matter deeply to who we are, what we believe, and how we act. Those six social practices look like this ((If you’re not familiar with the NWP and its more traditional model, the typical initiation into the network has occurred through a several week long Invitational Summer Institute. Think of it as a summer camp. Where you write with, share practice with, and inquiry together, some really smart teachers who may or may not teach like you do. That’s commonly abbreviated as the ISI or the SI – hence the “in the classic SI” descriptors here. The group is still working on more resources to share the framework beyond the network. Stay tuned.)):

Screen Shot 2018 03 16 at 9 16 23 AMI want to write more about each of the social practices, but I wanted to end this post with an idea that, ahem, emerged in the work that I wasn’t counting on.

While we were aiming at helping our design teams and the larger network identify how they should think about New Pathways, new opportunities to engage teachers in useful ways, it turns out the social practices framework, or the SPF as our team calls it, is also quite useful as a program review tool for some of our older and previously designed pathways, too.

It’s obvious in hindsight. But worth saying out loud writing down.

You get better at being you by constantly relooking at yourself through the lenses of what you value. And when things are blurry or fuzzy or otherwise hard to see, that’s a good time to adjust what you’re up to, to realign with what you aspire to be.

I’m so glad I had the chance to participate in this work. It challenged me to reevaluate things I and others I respect take for granted, and that’s hard to do but well worth doing.

I’m also tremendously excited to see what local Writing Project sites will do with these resources, and what new pathways they will build.

Oh – if you haven’t found your own local Writing Project site yet, well, it’s time.

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