I am intrigued by the idea of a school staff spending time writing together, but wonder how I could convince my school district that is kind of professional development is valuable. I would love to conduct a writing workshop for teachers as a springboard for implementing the kind of practices Regie outlines in Writing Essentials, but it would take more than one session for it to be meaningful to most. This will take some thought, and I'm curious what others think about how to approach administrators who may be doubtful that a "writing workshop" for teachers is something they want to pay teachers to attend.
With regard to common core standards, I notice that the phrase "with guidance from adults (peers)" is used quite a bit in connection with the production of writing and the process of writing. Since I'm reading a book that focuses so much on this "guidance" piece, it seemed strange to me that all the writing standards did not begin with this phrase. The guidance, after all, is the most important part.
When I was reading the section on having a writing workshop for teachers so they can reflect on how they write and how does that impact students, I thought the same thing Lori. I also thought about how do you get teachers to buy in to this also, not just administrators. I know many teachers at my school who would not find this worthwhile. Which is sad. I however, found it very interesting and would really like that to happen.
Three years ago, my district put a HUGE focus on Writing. We hired a Writing Consultant to teach PDs to the elementary teachers as a whole group. The next year, she started to meet separately with each grade level at each school (she would meet with 2-3 teachers at a time for an hour per month). This past year, she shared the job with a Reading Consultant. It has been nice to have someone to go to as the "Writing Expert" in the district. However, she is only one person shared among all the Writing teachers in the district, so she is spread pretty thin.
Going off from what both of you are saying (Lori and Annette), we actually did have a "Teachers Writing Workshop" for the first year of PD. I can honestly tell you that it did not work too well. People were upset about having to go to PD in the first place. They were annoyed that we had the Lucy Calkins program for a few years and this was the first PD that was offered. I think they thought that they had figured out the program and Writers Workshop, so why were we wasting our time? So, teacher buy-in was not strong, and it was very evident at the PDs. The consultant would have us all write for 15 minutes or so in our own Writers Notebook so we could experience what we have our students do on a daily basis. Almost no one participated. Instead, you would see teachers checking their email, texting, lesson planning, or just chatting. The consultant would walk around to see our work, put us into small groups with an assignment, and model whole group lessons. It didn't matter what she did. People were upset about being there and did not participate.
I was one of the people who listened to everything she had to say because I didn't feel like I got enough instruction or modeling on who to teach Writing while I was in school. I wanted to learn how to do the whole group lessons effectively, manage the workshop, and confer with students. Even though I was interested, I STILL did not participate in the individual writing part of the PD. I did not see the relevance. Honestly, I think the idea of having a "Teachers Writing Workshop" could work if you did it with one building (or a smaller group of teachers). With over 100 teachers, I think people did not feel like they had too much accountability to learn.
Of course, now I wish I could go back in time. I now realize how important it is to see yourself as a writer before you can teach others. I should have written down ideas for stories so I could have stories to share with my students. It only took 3 years to realize that my writing is important too. That's why I'm so excited to be a part of the RCWP this summer. I hope to leave this summer with a good start to a Writers Notebook that I can share with my students.
As far as the Common Core and Assessments go, I think Writing Essentials is a great book to use as a guide. Like the book says, if you teach writing well (instead of focusing on skills and writing prompts), you will cover the Common Core and students will do well on assessments. If you teach, model, and show students what good writing looks like, they will do well.
Annette Kelly is a 4th grade teacher at Beagle Elementary in Grand Ledge, MI.Lori Van Hoesen finished her internship at Willow Ridge Elementary in Grand Ledge, MI.Mary Wever is a 4th grade teacher at Red Cedar Elementary in East Lansing, MI.