Awards & Recognition
- IAWP Director & Teacher Consultant
My initiation to the Inland Area Writing Project was rather idiosyncratic. I went through the 2007 Invitational Leadership Institute as a fellow but also as a mentee/future Co-Director of the site. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to assume a leadership role far earlier than I had anticipated or planned, yet in retrospect this challenge has been one of the most enriching professional experiences I have had. At the center of it all, the inquiry stance has come to my rescue and continues to do so in my capacities as site leader and teacher. More specifically, accepting and welcoming the discomfort that the unknown is bound to cause, I do not shy away from analyzing and reflecting on the effectiveness of my teaching approaches. I constantly and consistently engage in the analysis of my students’ work; I determine what variables within my approach or outside of it may have caused specific student outcomes; then, I research and implement change when change is needed. More importantly, thanks to this inquiry stance I adopted through the Writing Project, I have been empowered to help my students feel more at ease with the unknown; I can help them transform their frustration about their lacks into a focus on their ability to learn; I can help them ask questions and become self-guided learners while they also collaborate with others in seeking improvement.
Stretching my writing beyond my comfort zone of the academic realm has been the main reward reaped from my participation in the Writing Project. Venturing into unknown and less practiced areas, like poetry and personal narrative, has been intimidating yet fulfilling. Not only that, I have become more analytical and self-reflective about my own writing processes, the multitude of critical switches turned on every time I sit down to write, and their effect on me sometimes hindering my creativity. Having to write a reflection on most pieces composed for my writing portfolio has offered me a new understanding of my affinity for extensive brainstorming and multi-layered outlines built by ideas for content and strategy. At the same time, understanding fellow writers’ processes, especially those who need to initiate writing by drafting rather than outlining, has helped me explore alternative approaches to writing, solidify and refine my own, and more importantly differentiate my instruction for my own student writers.
As mentioned above, the assumption of a leadership position came for me before I ever considered myself ready for it. Having experienced this transition as somewhat chaotic, I have taken on the responsibility of creating a more scaffolded leadership experience for new site leaders. The inquiry stance and the collaborative model of the Writing Project have helped me embrace my role as a leader and also inspire and cultivate leadership among others by creating a variety of roles that range from less to more engaging, from more to less specific. I have learned to seek and see potential in other individuals, and I have considered it my duty to deliberately and gradually scaffold their leadership roles, without turning the scaffold into a crutch.
When it comes to writing and its teaching, these I believe:
- Reading extensively may not automatically translate into better writing.
- Reading as a writer can be a catalyst for reading to influence writing in a positive way. Using mentor texts as models of writing can help students achieve breakthroughs in this way.
- Stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone can provide you with the empathy necessary to teach writing especially to students who struggle with it.
- Deliberate instruction that is focused on skill development can help students improve their writing skills and become more analytical and metacognitive about their approaches to reading, writing, and thinking.
- Writing alongside your students can help them understand the struggles inherent to the writing process.
- Inspiring students to write is a fine-balancing act that is worth investing in by going beyond textbooks and guides.
One of the more recent ones that we used for our Advanced Leadership Institute was Uncommonly Good Ideas: Teaching Writing in the Common Core Era by Murphy and Smith; it is a wonderful book for reflective practitioners in terms of research-based practices that are also cohesively connected around bigger ideas, and it is definitely compatible with the Common Core Standards.