Friday, September 12, 2014

Reflections at Another
Summer’s End

Shari Hales

Several reasons why the Eastern Michigan Writing Project Summer Institute is the best professional development experience I’ve ever had.
(Feel free to use any or all of these points when convincing colleagues to sign up next year.)

1. It’s sustained. These people don’t just hand you a book, or teach you something for three hours and then abandon you, or expect you to figure it out on your own. Once you’re in, you’re in! You are a part of their tribe. If you need help, ask. They will give you suggestions. If you feel overwhelmed by a challenge, they will guide you--and inspire you.

2. It’s a tribe of like-minded people. If you are a teacher who loves to teach, loves when the students learn (really learn, not just pass a test), and you want the pendulum of educational reform to swing back to the idea that students CAN learn and write, and we CAN be trusted to teach them because we are the experts, these are YOUR people.

3. It’s led by teachers. You know those students in your classroom you struggle to reach, because they want to entertain, because they didn’t get any breakfast, because they have a sick mama, because they have learned that they are failures? Guess what… I have them too. We all have them. Now, what do we do about it? One of the best parts of EMWP is that the ‘what to do about it’ or how to reach students and teach students: that is what everybody there wants to do, and we’re all in the trenches (sorry for the war metaphor) together. Together we work out solutions.

4. It’s relevant. After every single demonstration in three years' worth of PD, I have walked away thinking of all of the ways I can apply the ideas, the tools, and the skills in my classroom. No matter if it is an elementary school teacher’s demonstration or a high school teacher’s, every participant brings a piece to share that fits into the puzzle. There isn’t one answer, one approach. These people know that. They know that because they teach.

5. It’s what you need. Is there a teacher out there who wants to feel alone, underappreciated, inept, or out of date? No. The fellows at the Summer Institute will give you support, they will understand and explain to you the many ways you ARE an effective, valued professional.

All you need: the desire to teach and learn.

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