I spent the 96-97 school year as a teaching piloting the Orange County Literacy Project, a reading research project from Vanderbilt University. It eventually evolved into Read 180. It was my first induction into using centers. My ninth grade ESOL classroom had a technology center, an independent reading center, a guided reading centers, and a writing center. In the spring of '97 we were doing a nine week evaluation of the centers. Frandy, a tiny ninth grade boy with a big smile from Haiti, piped up and said, Ms. Scanlon, your writing center isn't really a writing center...it is more of a grammar center. I responded, "You know Frandy, You are right!" Of course, we can learn some much about our teaching when we learn to watch and listen to students.
That day I decided to do something different about my teaching of writing and applied for the now defunct Central Florida National Writing Project summer program. I spent a 4 weeks unpaid studying the writing craft, and the art of teaching writing. We read, we wrote, we taught each other and we wrote more. My time that summer changed the way I thought about the teaching of writing. It also literally changed my life. It inspired me to pursue my doctorate. I wanted to close the gap between research and instructional practice that is distinctive to many college of ed programs. The NWP is all about the idea that the best teachers of teachers are teachers.
I made new teacher friends. To this day, I am still close friends with them, not just teacher-friends, some of whom blog now, Lee Ann, Christine, and have in the past, Lee. In a way I was brought to the Slice of Life Story Challenge based on the learning from my NWP summer experience, being that if you want to teach writing, we need to write. Thank you Frandy for bring me here!