The National Writing Project has lost its federal funding. “A national tragedy” may sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. The NWP is perhaps the most successful program the U.S. government has ever funded. To de-fund NWP makes no sense in this age when every other word about the failure of our schools tells us we’re behind on all levels.
Teaching is hard work — a challenging blend of science and art. Teaching can also be discouraging, especially when systems of testing and boredom in the classroom turn students off to learning, turn teachers off to teaching. But every time I’m around NWP folks, I am proud to be a teacher. I’ve never met a more creative and passionate bunch — except at my undergraduate college, which is an experimental college with narrative transcripts instead of grades, an institution that weaves community, collaboration, expertise, and joy in learning. (I went to Johnston College in southern California, now the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies.)
Since 2003, when I attended my first Summer Institute, I have been doing a monthly online discussion group on Tapped In, an international professional development organization. Every second Thursday, I log on to Tapped In, go to the WriteTalk office, and talk to teachers, pre-service and experienced, about writing. I always begin with an introduction to the National Writing Project, and I show these teachers the NWP website. On the website map, they find an NWP site near them, and I’ve often wondered how many of these teachers have now gone to a Summer Institute. The reactions to the NWP website’s quality resources are always the same: teachers can’t wait to use the ideas they find.
I do this work as a volunteer because I believe in the efficacy of NWP. I know it works. And I’m glad to share what works with other teachers.