Saturday, August 6, 2016

And With That, It's A Wrap. Five Weeks of Incredible Writing @FairfieldU with @cwpfairfield @writingproject

I'm cooked, because I just completed the five week marathon I set up as my PRIMARY responsibility with CWP-Fairfield: youth and teachers of Connecticut. Three years ago I redesigned our Invitational Summer Institute so that selected educators would have more opportunities to work with stellar teachers during Young Adult Literacy Labs. Last year, I told my program manager, "We hit 150 kids this year and there's no way we can handle more. Let's aim for this as a goal in 2016 so I can keep my sanity."

Truth: I messed up. Word of mouth, social media, reputation, and our incredible educators increased youth participation by another 50 young people. We reached 200+ kids this year in Little Labs for Big Imaginations, Novel Lab: Character Matters, Novel Lab: Plot Matters, Project Citizen, Digital Journalism, Sports Writing, The Spoke Word, and College Essays. The number of kids signing up allowed me to hire 18 incredible educators and writers, undergraduate students, and youth advocates to teach the labs. Additionally, I hired Julie Roneson to co-direct the teacher institute and had an office full of snacks for the entire week (and pizza on Fridays). With State and Federal funding decreasing, I was able to bring a profit to CWP that wasn't here four years ago. This, of course, can be reinvested in teachers and students we serve, including our participating in the National Writing Project Annual Meeting and NCTE conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

A HUGE asset for the second year was bringing Abu and Lossine Ability on board to work with teachers and kids in all the labs, and hiring awesome educators to plan, design, and implement Ubuntu Academy (a lab for relocated and refugee youth). All of the labs had guest speakers (i.e., Caryn Sullivan, Kwame Alexander, Jack Powers, Chris Crutcher) and Fairfield University was more that spectacular for proving expertise and space for the work we do (shout out to Carol Ann Davis, Elizabeth Holt, and Yohuru Williams for amazing everyone).

Special to the redesign, though, are the opportunities for youth from 18 school districts and teachers to participate in writing workshops and conferences together. The next step of the work is to publish the writing achievements collected this summer.

We collected data from parents, too, every Friday who said things like, "These labs have changed my kid. I wish this was similar to their experiences they receive in school. I can't get my kid to stop writing now."

My mind is overwhelmed with the stimulation from it all and I sort of worried when one mom said to me this afternoon, "I'm telling all my friends about this experience. Seriously, I'm sending my kid back next year and he will be bring many of his friends. Other parents need to see this."


The good news is that if parents are willing to sign up their kids for our literacy labs, I can offer summer employment for incredible writers and teachers.

I am forever thankful to Fairfield University and the National Writing Project for standing behind this work. Next summer, I will be without a Supporting Effective Educator Development Teacher Leadership grant (as I doubled up this summer), but I have a few tricks up my sleeve, already looking promising (stay tuned hip hop artists and 1st and 2nd grade teachers).

In the mean time, the twins are telling me I need to learn to relax. Of course, as they are vegging in from of the t.v. I'm posting this morning's blog. I learned so much from everyone this summer, so sleep is a nice idea, but the knowledge needs to be shared with others. Kids love to write. Parents love their young people achieving. Teachers want to feel validated and have their professionalism recognized.

If you build it, they will come. It feels good to know that Ubuntu really works. Who we are together is really building who I am. I am feeling rather proud this Saturday.

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