Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing Teachers Write

Question: Teachers of writing should write. But what should they write?

Answer/Quote: “The notion that ‘teachers of writing must also write’ has been pervasive since the 1970s. But what should they write? On this question, the consensus has been less clear. In the National Writing Project (NWP), a professional network focused on the improvement of writing instruction and featuring summer institute in which teachers engage in writing of their own as well as demonstrations of effective teaching practice, tradition has usually favored personal writing, particularly memoir, poetry and fiction.

“This emphasis on personal writing has, at times, left the NWP vulnerable to criticism that the writing occurring in its summer institutes is too self-focused, characterizing the personal or creative writing done by teachers during the summer as insufficiently focused on classroom problems and practice. In fact, professional writing has been part of the writing teachers have engaged in at NWP summer institutes since 1974…but the relative emphasis that NWP summer institutes should place on these two kinds of writing has been a point of friendly contention among those involved in NWP, with some NWP site directors arguing for the importance of personal writing, others requiring that teachers also undertake some professional writing, and still others going so far as to insist that most, if not all, writing at the summer institutes take up professional topics.” P. 235.

Comment: I too have been critical of teachers’ writing in National Writing Project summer institutes. I have categorized in disgust such writing as “gush” writing. I like the idea of teachers writing for professional purposes and dealing with classroom problems. And attempts to publish. RayS.

 Title: “Writer, Teacher, Person: Tensions Between Personal and Professional Writing in a National Writing Project Summer Institute.” Anne Elrod Whitney. English Education (April 2009), 235-258.

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