Tomorrow is the first day of summer vacation and the first day of the Invitational Summer Institute at Area 3 Writing Project. Back in February, I applied to join the Summer Invitational based on the recommendations of friends who had participated during previous summers. My friend Brian, a Great Valley Writing Project graduate and phenomenal writer, explained to me, “I didn’t really know how to write until I attended Summer Institute – it will be an amazing experience, you’ll love every moment.”
Initially, I did not consider myself a writing teacher, so I wasn’t sure if I was a fit for the Summer Invitational. I’ve taught science and technology to both students and adults, but I’ve never really taught writing. Heck, I’m not even really sure if I know how you are supposed to teach writing. When I’ve helped former students with research projects, lab reports, or digital stories I just kind of went with what made sense based on my own experience as a writer. Interestingly, I’ve learned through my first few initial meetings and assigned reading that I’m hardly alone. Many teachers have received almost no instruction on how to effectively teach writing and all of us are writing instructors whether we realize it or not. I think this quote from a principal in Because Writing Matters does a great job of describing what most of us have experienced in the classroom.
“Only writing teachers are expected to teach writing across all subject areas. The science teachers may expect a well-researched, grammatically correct paper from new students, not realizing that for the six years before they got a particular child she never learned how to do that. So their whole perception of the childs’ writing and ability changes when they get those first works and they blame the writing teachers, who, in turn, blame the earlier teachers. Every teacher who interacts with children has a responsibility for the student’s development in writing as it applies to their subject area.”
Over the next four weeks I will study literacy and writing instruction with a great group of educators from throughout the Sacramento area. The Summer Institute also has the core belief that improvements in writing instruction are directly linked to improvements in a teacher’s writing ability. So as Brian described, I look forward to leaving this experience as a stronger, more effective writer – its my own little intellectual writing vacation.