Writing Workshop: Where Instruction and Leadership Meet

met leaders pd 83.jpgIn recent months, I had the privilege of providing literacy staff development for educators from across the state of Wyoming. With vast, snow-blanketed prairie land as our backdrop, I guided teachers, coaches, and principals on an exciting expedition through the writing process as a means of studying elementary writing instruction. Outfitted with notebooks and pens, we embarked upon the same writing journey we ask of our students—we set out to collect and nurture our ideas, which over a period of days were developed into drafts, edited and revised, and finally, honed to become final pieces of work.

I must commend my Wyoming colleagues, as such an endeavor is far from easy. Good writing requires considerable thought, vulnerability and risk. As participants began to confront their own insecurities as adult writers, I invited them to consider both the task set before their students, as well as the writing instruction they received as children. We concluded that the majority of us were assigned the task of writing, but were rarely taught how to write.

I believe that great writers are made, not born. Grounded in the core belief that every student has the potential to achieve when provided high quality instruction, my colleagues and I examined the pedagogical and day-to-day practices that ensure it is our students’ strengths and needs that drive instruction.

Our journey, however, did not end there. We engaged in an equally important conversation: that every teacher is responsible for providing high quality instruction, and possesses the potential to do so when leaders at every level share a common vision and language. While this may sound idealistic, our dialogue about instructional leadership was grounded in practical ways in which writing instruction might be supported by teacher colleagues, coaches, principals, and central office administrators.

The week in Wyoming culminated in a “Writers’ Celebration,” where participants were invited to share their final or “published” piece of writing. Educators who had never considered themselves as writers read with passion, humor, even tears.  Although our journey together had come to an end, we left with renewed hope in our work and in ourselves as instructional leaders.  We left knowing how to intentionally support and nurture the capacity of each and every child we teach.  What could be more important?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Writing Workshop: Where Instruction and Leadership Meet

  1. ikedas

    What a wonderful opportunity to spend more than just one day in the experience of writing. Sounds like a mini writing project experience. Are you a writing project teacher? I’m doing something similar at a district principal’s meeting, but they’re definitely not giving me days. Many of these principals belong to restructured schools and they have a variety of programs to help them meet AYP. Some, like the Edison schools, don’t allow their language arts teachers to do any writing until after the state testing in April. I need to sell them on the importance of writing to learning as well as immerse them in the writing project experience so I’m trying to hone it down to essentials. Thoughts?

    • Thanks for your question, Cathy! In the district that I currently consult in, the principals acknowledged that their low writing scores could be attributed to a variety of factors including the absence of independent writing time for students, as well as the absence of explicit writing instruction from teachers. They came to the realization that most of their teachers were assigning writing, but not teaching writers. If your principals can agree upon the core belief that the quality of instruction will directly influence student learning, the need for writing professional development will become a necessity. With that said, I recommend you order Lucy Calkins and Laurie Pessah’s newest book for principals on leading the work in writing: http://books.heinemann.com/products/E02251.aspx. Hope this is helpful!

  2. ikedas

    Thank you Grace, this is very helpful!

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