Ideally, IWT develops a relationship with an on-site institution over time, so that teachers may continue to develop how to put into practice what they learn from successive workshops. One teacher, returning to her classroom from a good experience at an IWT workshop, may be able to change the way students write and think in her classroom. But alone she cannot bring change to the entire school or curriculum. Teachers from the same school who attend in together can support each other once they return to the classroom and can become agents for change in the school as a whole, and this could be reinforced by an on-site workshop. Here in their own words are teachers who have experienced this firsthand.
“I brought (IWT practices) into my teaching in two courses. One was for final year undergraduates preparing to write their dissertations (2 hours a week); the other an intensive two days for students beginning Ph.D study. These classes moved between discussion of articles or book chapters by historians, and discussion of students’ own work. We would look at subjects such as audience, structure, methodology, use of evidence, etc, mainly through Focused Freewriting and Process Writing. All of this was extraordinary successful. I had taught the undergraduate course twice before, and it had never worked as well: the students clearly enjoyed it, and the resulting dissertations were of a very high standard. The Ph.D students (without my prompting) set up a reading and writing group for regular meetings to carry on what we began this year.”
Michael Staunton, University College Dublin
Borough of Manhattan Community College (Revolutionary Grammar workshop)
“An excellent workshop! I have taught composition or writing for almost a decade and have never felt satisfied with how I incorporated grammar into my courses. I thought this workshop would really speak to my concerns (and it did).”
“I have realized that, although I have collected many grammar activities over the years, I have a need to continue my search for effective, fun ones, not only for my own enjoyment, but for my students as well. I can use all that we have done here in my classes.”
National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology
“This was a much-needed reminder (for me) to “look and look again” to guide students with the right questions and prompts, to avoid traditional assignment giving, to take time to be thoughtful.”
“I especially liked the less threatening/intimidating idea of “sneaking up on an essay”–of using process thinking and process writing in an eventual paper.”
School of Visual Arts, New York City
(In this workshop) “I learned about ways to open up the text and help students engage with it; to think of the text in relation to the author and to themselves; and to move from personal tastes and responses to a larger understanding that grows out of the process of questioning, thinking, and writing.”
“It was illuminating to have the experience as a student would—as I answered questions, worked in pairs, reflected, reconfigured my responses from a different angle, listened to the others in the workshop giving their reflections, etc., I felt that real intellectual work was getting done, yet each of us was given the means to grapple with the texts (visual and literary) in a very individual way.”
Steve Garvey Junior HS, Lindsay Unified School District, CA
“Wow! I’ve learned so much about writing and learning. I have a better understanding of how to weave writing throughout a lesson. I feel I have a deeper understanding of literacy and the implication for developing critical thinking through collaboration. Free Writing, Focused Free Writing, Process Writing, Dialectical notebooks, and Text rendering will be a good place to start.”
“This workshop gave me a paradigm shift in my approach to writing in mathematics. It was freeing to allow myself to write and grow in the confidence that I can bring this back to my students.”
Asheville School, Asheville, NC
“This was one of the most helpful teaching workshops I’ve attended. Thank you.”
“I’ve learned many teaching practices…ways to discuss student writing and revising…will use these in my classroom with great excitement and enthusiasm.”
Finger Lakes Community College, NY
“The readings, the writing, the sharing of writing, and the discussions were all especially helpful.”
“I have learned new ways to get students to think about writing and to get them more engaged in what they want to say.”
Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn, NY
I took my first workshop in July 2000 and was immediately hooked. I was back the next summer for another workshop, and then I asked Teresa Vilardi about bringing an Institute Associate to my school. At the time, I was chairing an integrated English/History department covering grades 6-12, and often it felt like the sixth grade social studies teacher and the AP English teacher just didn’t belong in the same department. I hoped that the Institute writing practices would help us discover how connected our work really was. Alfie Guy came several times throughout the year and worked with our department during professional development days, and his impact was tremendous. As a group, we connected in ways that were both professional and personal, and as individual teachers, we started implementing the techniques he shared with us. We developed a common language for talking about thinking and writing, and we began to see how that 6th grade social studies teacher was laying the thinking and writing foundations upon which the AP English teacher would depend. That common language began with two words: process writing.
The power of process writing is that it reminds my students that the writing they do, first and foremost, is for themselves. It’s not for me. This may seem obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me when I was a student, and it certainly doesn’t appear to be obvious to most of my students today. They often think of writing as something they do so I can give them a grade. Process writing challenges that view. I try to help them develop the habit of using writing as a place to sort through their own ideas and learn to ask questions of themselves and of a text. Bard gave me the tools to do that well.
I find the Institute workshops at Bard to be magical. I should probably say that they are professionally stimulating and fill me up with new ideas about my classroom. And that’s true. But that’s not why I got hooked back in 2000, and it’s not what keeps me coming back. There are a lot of places to get good ideas for teaching—my shelves are filled with helpful books about teaching, and online resources abound. What happens at the Institute is different. Led by top-notch faculty who pick up a pencil and do the process writing right alongside us, the participants of an Institute workshop are people who care about writing not just as teachers of writing but as writers themselves. The Institute is about lifting up the very thing that got me into teaching in the first place—a hunger for human connection, a longing to believe that writing and language can be ways to access our most complicated thoughts, our most nuanced perceptions. The Institute affirms my belief that helping others to think and write well is a noble calling. In every Institute workshop, there is a seriousness of purpose, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. And that’s why I keep coming back, and probably always will. You can never get enough of that magic.