Inaugural Professional Writing Retreat
By Susan Martens
Supports and Inspires Teacher Voices
Twelve NeWP Teacher Consultants gathered at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler this June to support one another in the NeWP's first Professional Writing Retreat. Three facilitators (Jane Connealy, Robert Petrone, and Susan Martens) and nine participants spent three days writing, reading, and collaborating in small groups within the quiet confines of the reflective Retreat Center.
The group also spent time discussing the unique challenges faced by teachers who choose to write for professional audiences as well as the increasing need for practitioners to make their voices heard in conversations shaping educational policies. As participant Jenny Razor noted, "Many of us are hesitant to in any way say that we are authorities and yet, if we aren't authorities on what we do, who is? It made me feel empowered to tell my stories and to not be afraid to make bold statements and arguments about the state of education and my role in it. I believe in the power of teacher voices for change and reflection and challenging the status quo."
Several participants also commented on the way the retreat experience changed the way they thought about professional writing. Dan Boster said, "I think one of the things I realized over the past couple of days (and before to some degree) is that I need to see the professional writing as a continuation of the acts that I
am so passionate about rather than something separate. I believe that it's simply
time to get over the 'no-one-wants-to-read-this' mentality and just do it."
Most fundamentally, the retreat offered participants the gifts time, space, and community that allowed them to produce publishable professional writing. Maggie Christensen described her retreat experience as one where "I learned that conscious, deliberate focus can produce tangible writing results in a (relatively) short period of time, and great progress in writing and thinking can be made when surrounded by solitude and a supportive environment."