We are now in the second week of the NWP Summer Institute, and interesting results have begun already. Though we have three more weeks (or so) of the SI left, I think we've leaped over a major hurdle. The first day, several Fellows expressed their anxiety and fear about writing, about teaching writing, and about sharing their writing. By the end of the first week, a perceptual shift had already begun. Many who swore they would never present found themselves in Author's Chair* at the end of the day, reading stories and reflections that were beautiful and inspiring in so many ways. In our response groups (made up of four individuals), fellows who claimed to be anxious about writing were sharing their pieces. The attitude change can really only be the result of a) being told that writing is important, b) being given time to write, c) having a friendly, receptive, and active audience, and d) hearing others talk about themselves as writers and listening to others' writing.
I find this transformation (after only one week, mind you!) fascinating. I came in assuming all the Fellows were writers who were comfortable with writing and were simply looking for a professional development that would help them build on that identity and their skills to teach writing even better. Imagine my shock when a couple of teachers expressed their anxiety about writing and about teaching writing. I found myself in a minority of Fellows who truly felt comfortable in saying "I'm a writer," and in sharing my writing with a broader audience.
I think this dramatic shift speaks highly both of my fellow participants and of what the National Writing Project can do. It's exciting, and as I'm writing during Silent Sustained Writing time, I'm happy for the opportunity to be here, learning from my peers and actually spending time with pen to paper (or fingers to keys) producing words and realizing how important working daily on writing is to me.
*Author's Chair is the half hour set aside at the end of the day for the Fellows to share any piece of writing with the whole group.