In addition to (slowly) revamping my writer's workshop curriculum this summer, I've also been spending most of my time pursuing another passion through my work with the Iowa Council of Teachers of English (ICTE).
In case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty vocal about the need for writing teachers to practice what they preach. I rant about it here on the blog every month or so, in some form or another. I'm not going to stop doing that anytime soon, but back in April at our face to face ICTE Board meeting, I decided it was time to pursue this passion with a more concrete action plan. (Kudos to Jen Paulsen and Erin Miller, presidents extraordinaire, for leading us to create individual plans with SMART goals for our work on the board.)
My role on the board technically deals with membership, but in the past few months, they've allowed me to veer from that direction in order to focus my energy on what I really care about: writing and recruiting more teacher-writers to share their experiences for our website.
I've been harassing, I mean recruiting, Iowa teacher-writers since May in order to build a stable of people from all over the state willing to write for our website. With an initial list of about twenty-five brave souls who responded to my form, I started to make individual contact with each prospect, knowing that filling out a form is a different level of commitment than doing the actual writing.
Cold-emailing people I've never met is not something on my list of favorite activities, but I wanted this initiative to thrive. Fear of being blown off kept me wondering if I'd ever receive any actual posts from people that I didn't already know in person. In order to feel like I could successfully launch this project, I wanted to have at least 5-10 posts lined up in advance to give myself and the writers a safety net. Last week, I received the tenth submission, right on track with my original goal of a mid-July launch date.
Yesterday, the first post from Cedar Rapids Kennedy teacher Stacy Haynes Moore went live.
It wasn't without struggle. I have never used WordPress, which is what we use for the ICTE website. In order to keep this initiative rolling, I had to ask Jen for a small crash course last weekend. While I picked up the basics, it's definitely something I'll still have to tinker with and ask for help with regularly. I'm also going to have to navigate the balance between bothering people and holding them accountable. I am doing this as a volunteer, so are the writers. Keeping this initiative alive while giving the writers the support and time they need to write (outside of their teaching duties) is something that will take a concentrated effort on all sides. Add in to the mix my writing and teaching (and coaching) schedules in addition to this new role as editor and publisher, and I've put a lot on my plate for the coming year.
As of right now, I have a tentative schedule of writings, rotating through different teachers, that will take us up until mid-September. Instead of my original plan of bi-weekly or monthly posts, I have enough to post a new writing every week, as long as people keep writing. I hope to hear from a few more teachers as summer winds down and they start to think in education mode once again. I also hope to hear from a variety of people who have a great idea or see one in action and send it my way. We desperately need to hear from culturally diverse teachers and young teachers; two populations who aren't represented enough nationally or in Iowa.
It's important for teachers to share ourselves with each other. It keeps us sharp as writers, which better helps us to provide support for our student writers. It also keeps us connected to the classroom experts right in our own backyard. I want the ICTE Teacher Writings page to be a place teachers can turn to for lesson ideas, thoughtful discussion of ELA topics, and community support. There are so many aspects of being a teacher that can make us feel alone or isolated even when we spend our days surrounded by people; I want this initiative to be one more way in which teachers know they have a place where they belong.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.