National Writing Project – Las Vegas 2012

Each year, right before Thanksgiving time, a special group of educators gather together to celebrate the importance of writing.  Writing in its many forms is the signature means of communication in the 21st century, and the National Writing Project envisions a future where every person is an accomplished writer, engaged learner, and active participant in a digital, interconnected world.  The NWP is a network of sites anchored at colleges and universities and serving teachers across disciplines and at all levels, early childhood through university. We provide professional development, develop resources, generate research, and act on knowledge to improve the teaching of writing and learning in schools and communities.  Our annual meeting makes visible the expertise of our dynamic network, as we continue to learn with and from one another.  As the Director of the Kean University Writing Project,  I am energized and inspired by our gathering.  And in the spirit of “writing-to-learn”, I have decided to keep a running log of my conference experience this year.  The following are my notes/reflections from our 2012 NWP Annual Meeting:

8:30am – Informal Conversation with Directors About the Work of Directing a Site

Introductions – Directors from Writing Project sites throughout the country introduce themselves.

Freewriting exercise- two questions to respond to:

What is it that we have learned about the work of directing a NWP Site that we would like to share with the group?

– Build a model of in-service that functions a bit like a small business (with modest revenue built into each engagement with the community);

-Be responsive to the school district’s needs (customize your programming based on the specifics of a school situation);

-remember to foster community from the moment the ISI begins, so that teacher-leaders can be identified and the TC roster can be grown;

-think of innovative angles to draw the community back together (i.e. our KUWP “unconference” plan);

-the University political terrain:  tying the work of the site to the Department’s mission (recruitment for Unviersity); Youth Programs as a basis for University recruitment; argue that the site supports overall interdisciplinary writing support; the site improves Graduate enrollment; the Site as a feeder for the University’s MA programs (academic offerings that support pre-service teachers); developing graduate course certificates (-i.e. “graduate certificate in the teaching of writing”; writing projects can develop courses- i.e.”teaching argumentative writing” – this can be presented explicitly as common core support for pre-service teachers;

-Ask questions of other Directors (the best resource for Site Directors is other Site Directors – call colleagues in the network)

What are the challenges/questions about this work that might be asked of this group?

-How to work with the Foundation effectively?

-More ideas for effective continuity activities?

-Rethinking the ISI model? -What is the most important part of this ISI?  – the Writing!  This is was is distinct about the experience.  The writing is what changes the teaching.  How many pieces of writing can you have teachers do in the allotted time?  A 4 week model? – 4 different kinds of writing, in 4 weeks.    Community building – looking at educational practices, this takes at least 4 weeks.

-too much reliance on the grants model?

-Online course version of ISI?  7 days of in-sight work, full semester of on-line work (University of Maine model); mentoring in-built in model; percentage of tuition goes to site – a solid revenue stream.

The big issues that have been identified here:

-The integrity of “the model” (thinking about the ISI – what is it that we hope to accomplish?  what form can it take?)

-the money/revenue challenge

-Teacher-leadership (identify, support, sustain)

-NWP Connect (Site leaders forum)

-Teleconferencing for Site Directors?

Coffee/tea break.

Next up – the Plenary Session:

11:00am  We are 1,000 writers writing at this time, and we are taking a moment to thank the people within our network who have helped us, inspired us – a collective thanks to our colleagues who have given us strength and guidance for the work of the Project.

Delicious Lunch!  Including some announcements about the Urban Sites Network Conference “Writers of Social Justice:  How One Pen Can Change the World” – April 26-27, 2013.  Also “The Best Teen Writing of 2012”.

1:15pm “Leadership Transitions”

Our starting “freewrite exercise” = Reflecting on the past year as the Director of Kean University Writing Project:

– In-service model is bearing modest revenue; our ISI has been small but very successful, in-keeping with the original NWP philosophy; we continue to receive University support; we will probably be able to apply for 2 SEED grants this cycle, we will roll out a new “continuity” event – the KUWP “unconference”; we need to develop a University Foundation project & identify a liaison work with ORSP; fostering a SITE identity as an expert in “digital writing” – best practices & research;

Group list of issues:

Morale & funding

Prioritizing/Strategic Planning/?s  about downsizing or growing certain aspects of the WP


Continuity – working with TCs & supporting them

PR visibility (*briefing state of KUWP to the Eng Dept)

Cross curriculum support ( WAC & interdisciplinary writing support)

Identifying Leadership capacity

3:15 “Exploring Strategies for Supporting Your Site’s Infrastructure Costs”

Issues discussed:

Tuition for ISI

Professional Development (TC stipends)

Support for multiple locations to extend access

Director’s support

Office Management

Travel costs

Management of Time as Director (Admin support)


Re-organization of old management model

Developing a Teacher-Leadership “team”

More roundtable discussion:

Infrastructure Costs worksheet

Sample Budget worksheets

We are realizing that all solutions are local….

Youth Camp models

Senior Writing Camp (retirees – memoir camp) – Savannah, Georgia has a model

Veteran Writers Workshop

NWP Resources:

-NWP Connect

-“The Model at Work” – Site Report “Best Practices”