Monthly Archives: July 2010

family literacy

Laura Bentley tweeted this question to me, Kevin Hodgson and the rest of the world earlier today:

@poh @dogtrax Who Inspired You To Write? http://bit.ly/cHfBol I would love to hear reflections from more of my WP friends & all =) #nwp

Kevin and I, unbeknownst to each other (since we responded almost simultaneously on Laura’s blog), both wrote about the influence our mothers had on us as writers. This from Kevin’s comment:

 I guess my inspiration was my mom, who was not a writer but a reader, and she shared her books and encouraged me to read what I wanted. It was that love of reading that sparked the love of writing in me, and in the back of my teenage mind, I had this idea that I could become a writer.

My friend and colleague Casey Daugherty also mentions her mother in responding to this prompt:

Writing gave me a new insight to its value when I started reading my mother’s daily journal entries a few years ago, (she passed away 25 years earlier) and I noticed my own writing began to change with it. So did my motivation to write.

And Brian Fay, another NWP friend, followed up on Twitter by writing:

@poh My mother inspired me to write by showing me writers to read and then fostering the idea that I could be one of them.

This is what came to me, and what I posted to Laura’s blog:

I don’t believe any one person inspired me to write. But I do have a distinct memory of showing my mom a piece of paper while she was in the bathroom getting ready for work. I must have been 5 or 6. The paper was full of my scribbles – child-like attempts at cursive. Despite her busy-ness, my mom took time to pick out the accidental humps of w’s and m’s and probably a few other unintended letters. I was amazed. I had scribbled something and it actually had meaning for another person. I understood then the power of writing.

The thing I didn’t say, for the sake of brevity, is that my mom is not a native English speaker. She immigrated to this country after the Korean War and still has difficulty mastering the diabolical nuances of English. Both spoken and written. My mom to this day will send me letters she has written so that I can copy-edit, make revisions, help her convey intended meaning.

She would never call herself a writer.

And yet, here I am, profiting intellectually and professionally from this act of scribbling – more digitally these days – and sharing those scribbles with others.

Here’s to you, Mom. And to all the parents and siblings and grandparents and guardians who’ve ushered us down this path towards literacy.

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the summer (institute) of twitter

As Chance the Gardner from Being There was often fond of saying, “I like to watch.”

And watch I have as NWP colleagues from around the country have taken to tweeting their experiences. Most are currently in some stage of beginning or ending their summer institutes, an event that gathers local teachers together to share practice, engage in a look at current research, write and enjoy the bonding that occurs when you put 20 or so teachers together in a room for 4 weeks.

When I went through my Summer Institute back in the late 90’s, I had very little sense of the national infrastructure of the writing project. I knew only my own Western Massachusetts Writing Project and had a vague notion that we were part of something bigger. It wasn’t until I attended the first NWP Annual Meeting a few years later that I realized the true scope of this teacher professional development organization.

So it’s with astonishment and admiration that I see April Estep in West Virginia sharing her morning writing prompts with Thomas Maerke, who himself is recording video of conversations in Missouri. Steve Moore in Kansas City posts one of the most moving readings I’ve ever heard, right from his phone, and that reading by one of the facilitators of his institute gets retweeted in moments. Cynthia Younger, also in Kansas City, is encouraged to develop her first blog by Steve Moore and then goes on Twitter to seek blogging advice. All the while, Paul Hankins and Donalyn Miller and Bud Hunt and Andrea Zellner and Kevin Hodgson, among a myriad of others, shout out encouragement from their corners of the country.

I could go on and on – from Philadelphia to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Monterrey Bay in California, summer institute teachers are providing a window into their daily work and play.

As I said, I’m astonished. Not because I thought these teachers were incapable of connecting with each other and sharing in this way. I realize that this is what has been happening on Twitter for many educators over the past few years.

It’s more that I didn’t fully understand the power of what would be unleashed when summer institutes connected. As Carl Whithaus so aptly put it in his tweet which I pasted above, it is the “dual sense of community” that has emerged and that has now been – and I’d bet money that this is true – cemented. The way in which, dialectically, a face-to-face experience has supported the use of social media, and social media has in turn amplified the face-to-face moment.

It is the summer (institute) of Twitter.

I like to watch.

And listen.

And, as it turns out, even participate.

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Filed under digital literacies, education, new media, social networking