Meghann Donohue, Staff member for the Inaugural Year-Round Institute Reflects on the experience of revisiting the learning community of the teaching fellows:
When I initially took this class in the summer of 2014, I fell in love with it. Here was a gift of time, time for me to work on a different facet of myself, and that was me as a writer. I learned lots of other things too, and certainly got a chance to refine instructional strategies, but aside from that, I really learned what it meant to write regularly, to write every day, and to absorb myself in that act of construction and writing. Aside from the personal relationships and summer friendships that I will always treasure, that was the most valuable part of the whole experience. I could feel how having regular and consistent writing practice fueled this part of me that I love.
When I was asked to be on staff this year, I pretty much leapt at the opportunity. I knew I couldn’t make the summers work with my two young kids, but this year-round model I could do. I was anxious to recapture that part that I had discovered before. I wanted to feel myself grow and improve, just from that underlying concept that I was a writer, and I was someone who regularly engaged in that practice.
What I didn’t think about at the time was the amount of varied content I would be exposed to. I didn’t think about the potential for learning about other subject areas, and reflecting about how writing can enhance those subjects too. So to summarize, here are just some of the things I felt I learned this year:
I learned how “real” PE should be taught and how there are ways, even with the physical requirements, to encourage kids to to be reflective and analytical writers. I learned that physical activities, like walking the track can be part of an act of revision, can stimulate us to become better writers.
I learned how the expectations for writing start in elementary school and how the bedrock for writing starts young. With appropriate literacy instruction, the fundamentals for creating lifelong readers, writers, and communicators take hold.
I learned that inference skills can be fun. They don’t have to be big and scary.
I learned that picture books can have a role in my classroom and that using them as writing prompts can be one way to engage my own middle-school students.
I learned that high school English teachers really *are* doing workshop and doing it well, and that their students are thriving from that opportunity.
I was reminded that kids need an audience–one that they value and trust–in order to do their best work. Sometimes that audience is a teacher they wouldn’t expect (like a high school science teacher), sometimes that audience is their parents (like with portfolios or data books), and sometimes that audience is their peers (like with the blogging, the reader’s chair and read arounds.)
I was reminded that ALL writers crave choice. No one likes to be told what they have to write about as their only writing practice and their only writing work.
I was reminded that writing has a heart and that it is our job, as writers, to protect that heart, even as we operate on the rest of the “body.”
Most of all, I was reminded that teachers of all subjects and interests and strengths really want to be writers too. Writing isn’t some exclusive club which people should be kept out of; it should be a party that we invite everyone to attend–and we need to hope they all show up! Because all of our words together represent communication and strength and possibility.
I am so glad I was able to be on staff this year and meet such a wide variety of caring, passionate educators, each of whom are making room for writing in their classroom. I can’t wait to see where the writing project takes them–and their students!
Co-Director Donna Lynn Shrum (TC 2006) has been employing Writing Marathons with her students at North Fork Middle School since attending the week long marathon in New Orleans, Louisiana with many other Teacher Consultants. Her last one for the year was held at Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, VA.
Congratulations to TC Rhonda Lancaster on her recent third place award for her short story “To Have a Home.” She received her award from Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain. Congratulations on your achievement!
We are always proud to learn that a TC has been published. One of our newest TCs, already a published author with HuffPost and ESPN when she entered the Institute, Latin teacher Dani Bostick has actively responded to Donald Trump Jr’s denouncement of teachers in his speech at the 2016 Republican Convention. If you haven’t already seen it in your feeds, here is a link to her “Open Letter to Donald Trump Jr.: You are Wrong About Teachers.”
We are taking your nominations! Just click the text below to send information on a colleague you would like to nominate for the 2017 Summer Institute. And thank you!
Congratulations! The Inaugural 2015 Teacher Consultants
for the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project are:
Liberty High School
Trailside Middle School
Clarke County High School
Douglass Alternative School
Trailside Middle School
Rock Ridge High School
Warren County High School
Johnson-Williams Middle School
Harmony Middle School
James Wood High School
John Kerr Elementary School
Stone Hill Middle School
Signal Knob Middle School
Signal Knob Middle School
These teachers successfully completed the 2014 Invitational Summer Institute held at John Handley High School under the leadership of Susan McGilvray and Laura Tucker:
- Rhonda Alley, Douglass School, Leesburg, VA
- Julie Cacciola, Douglass School, Leesburg, VA
- Julie Constantino, Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary, Winchester, VA
- Meghann Donohue, Harmony Middle School, Hamilton, VA
- Jennifer Warner Howells, Skyline High School, Front Royal, VA
- Nicole Kaylan, Dominion High School, Sterling, VA
- Mallory Skarupa, Central High School, Woodstock, VA
- Margaret Stokes, Belmont Ridge Middle School, Leesburg, VA
- Amy Thomas, Frederick Douglass Elementary, Winchester, VA
Teacher Consultants of the SVWP:
Take a moment to update your contact information. If any of your information changes (New school? New home? New email?), please follow the hyperlink and let us know!
Teacher Consultants Write!
Congratulations to TC Donna Shrum, English Department Chair at North Fork Middle School, for her recent article in the ASCD Express “Einstein’s 55 Minutes” published January 8, 2015.
Congratulations to Rhonda Lancaster for having “Shell Shocked,” a flash memoir, published in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers Frank X Walker Volume VI
A Year in the Life of a Writing Teacher – Susan McGilray, SVWP Co-Director What goes on in a middle school writing classroom?
Walking to School – Mary Tedrow, SVWP Director Emphasis on Education Policy and its impact in the classroom and on the teaching profession.
Sloppy Copy Mommy – Jessica Cavalier, SVWP Teacher Consultant Raising your own–and other people’s–children.