Another year of facilitating the Western Mass. Writing Project's Summer Institute, and just like every year, magic happened this summer.
At first, the group of 12 teachers is tentative, quiet, and nervous. They wonder if it will be like other professional development they have done at their schools. They hope they will get something out of it that will be useful for their practice. They begin to slightly regret deciding to take up 3 weeks of summer to go to a class.
But this isn't just any class. After the second day of Summer Institute when we hold our writing marathon, something happens. The group begins to come together, to get to know each other, and to realize that this is not like other PD they have done. In this PD, they will have the incredible trifecta of choice, time, and support.
Teachers here have choice. They decide on an inquiry question they want to explore. No one dictates to them what to do or how to do it. They have the freedom to follow their desires about what THEY think will work in their classroom.
Time - the other part of the equation. Teachers never have enough time. There are meetings, mandates, crises, and initiatives. Even when time is given for collaboration, most often a product is required. The time to think, write, process, and talk with other teachers is rare.
And support. Rarely as teachers do we get the kind of support that allows us to follow our dreams and creativity, to plan our classes the way we really want them to be. To have fellow teachers listen to them and advise them, without anything at stake except for planning a workshop that centers around inquiry.
By the end of the first week, the first workshop has been successfully planned and presented. The teachers are now laughing, joking, and tearing up with each other. They have shared teaching stories, personal stories. They have recommended, looked at and explored resources. They have made shared Google docs to list books they love and academic titles people should read.
By Friday, they are animated, but also exhausted. Thinking and learning tax our brain power in a good way.
By week 2, the teachers can't imagine that week one is finished and week 3 is around the corner! They begin to talk about ways to stay in touch, to keep the magic going, to support each other.
Week 3 is a whirlwind of workshops, writing, reflections, and discussions. Two teachers plan to make us temporary WMWP tattoos for our arms, to wear on the last day. This is a first!
Each group has its own special magic. This year is no exception. There is nothing quite like a group of teachers, teaching each other, learning from each other, supporting one another, and understanding one another's worlds. It is truly a kind of magic that is hard to find and that we want to hold on to for months to come.