A Community Mandated by Law, United through Writing
It is late afternoon on Wednesday. A group of twenty-three educators, representing nine Omaha area Learning Community districts gather at Educational Service Unit # 3 in La Vista, NE. They teach kindergarten through grade 12, provide professional development for others in their districts, and serve as district curriculum leaders. They worked all day in their classrooms, schools, and districts but gather now with new energy and excitement to share their own writing with colleagues in small groups - the poems they wrote this week, professional writing, beginnings of novels, family stories, classroom stories, and more. They listen and respond to each other, providing encouragement and ideas for revision. They are educators learning ways to improve writing education through shared expertise and resources. They are the first Learning Community of Writers' Institute (LCWI).
LCWI is a supportive writing and teaching workshop for educators modeled after the Nebraska Writing Project Summer Institutes. The three LCWI facilitators, Laura Miller and Kim Larson, Instructional Facilitators with Papillion-La Vista Schools, and Sue Anderson, Director of Staff Development with ESU #3, noticed themes that summarized the impact of LCWI on participants as they reviewed final portfolios and letters of reflection:
- An excitement for writing, for trying new genres, revisiting pieces written years ago, for talking about their own writing, and revising based on feedback received from others
- Participants making connections between themselves as writers and becoming better teachers of writing
- A willingness to become leaders in the area of writing instruction by connecting with other educators, finding ways to share ideas with others in their schools and districts, and show a renewed excitement for learning together.
This was the first professional development experience supported by the newly formed Omaha area Learning Community. The creation and implementation of the Institute was supported by Papillion-La Vista Schools, the Nebraska Writing Project, the Nebraska Department of Education, and the Omaha area Learning Community. If you are interested in knowing more about the Learning Community of Writers' Institute, please contact Mary Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have so many new ideas to take back to my district and use within my classroom. In addition, I'm so excited about the professional connections I've made in this group. It has been wonderful to work with others who share the same passion for writing and teaching writing.
I found the EQUIPs presented to be of great value. I've incorporated a number of items learned through the EQUIPs in my own instruction of writing. In addition to including my EQUIP in the portfolio, I have included examples of how I have already applied some of the LCWI experiences in my classroom.
My writing group during the institute kept me motivated and assisted me in revising my pieces. Their feedback was supportive and helpful. The institute as a whole has helped me view myself as more of a writer, and my confidence in my abilities as a writer has increased. The ideas presented, the connections with other teachers, the personalwriting, and the growth I've experienced as a teacher and a writer have made the LCWI probably the most valuable professional experience I've ever had. Treating students as writers, honoring what they write helps them love writing and see it as something they can do. The skills and techniques will follow!
Writers write for readers, and one of the things that has been beneficial through the writing project is the feedback from my peers. The thought of someone else reading or listening to my writing motivates me and pushes me to be better. The same is true for kids.