It is in this season of conferences that I recognize that no matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen colleagues or friends, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve engaged with my favorite work of the Writing Project and NCTE, that the network that has sustained me throughout both my High School and Higher Ed teachings, learnings, and doings, will always remain. It began in the airport when one of my favorite Red Cedar Writing Project fellows (Summer ’05! Best Summer Institute Ever!), Paul Cryderman was on my same flight. Somehow, each year for this conference, we end up on the same flight. It is also the only time we get to talk each year. Since 2006. And every year he grades “My Personal Michigan Hero” Essays on the plane, which he passes to me to read when he comes across a good one. I make sure he tells his middle school students that a “college teacher” has read their essays and how much I enjoyed them. T
he energy of the National Writing Project is so infectious each year. It is the dedication and commitment and innovation of this network that propels me here year after year. But I believe what I value most is the way that educators Kindergarten through University come together to share powerful practices, provoke questions, and explore this brave new world in which we are all figuring out the best ways to use the tech, to harness the network, and keep going amidst funding pressures, scapegoated teachers, poverty in our schools, and the myriad other issues that make teaching and learning the messy, time-intensive, rewarding, and heart-breaking paradox it is. Once I arrived, I immediately saw friends and colleagues, exchanged hugs, and jumped right into the last roundtable of the day at the NWP Annual Meeting. My friend Paul Allison and his YouthVoices crew led a discussion on an inspiring summer institute they conducted. They brought together a group of students and teachers in order to explore digital writing and technology in a shared space. The power of this shared learning, of students mentoring teachers, and teachers learning as students, was exciting and inspiring. It’s a reminder of how much more we can do to improve the experience of learning when we tap community resources to support the work we do. It certainly takes a village.
Of course there is so much more to say, write, and reflect on. I am sparking with ideas as I always am when I come to the Annual Meeting and the Annual Conference. I am hoping to write more, but time is short and there are just so many inspiring friends to dream big with here. In the meantime, be sure to follow the #nwpam14 and #ncte14 hashtags on Twitter.