July 6, 2016
“Learning is experience. Everything else is just information” ~Albert Einstein
If Einstein’s wisdom holds true, then you might call the design of one Write for Texas Summer Institute session for administrators pure genius.
In late June, principals, curriculum directors, instructional specialists, and education leaders from nine different school districts in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and the Coastal Bend joined together in a training aimed at improving academic writing instruction. But unlike professional development delivered in a “sit and get” fashion, this experience had participants working hands-on.
During the one-day session organized by Write for Texas staff at Region 2 Education Service Center, Coastal Bend Writing Project, and South Texas Writing Project, 32 participants engaged in generative writing and personal reflection activities designed to emphasize the importance of the reading/writing connection across all content areas. As expressed by one principal in attendance, “Today’s workshop has reinforced my desire to incorporate writing across the content areas and into the instructional culture at my campus. My goal will be to model this workshop in August staff development.”
The idea for a session focused on administrators was developed in direct response to needs observed on designated project campuses over the past year. While a main focus of the Write for Texas project has been providing resources and dedicated writing coaches to support classroom teachers, staff from the three collaborating project sites recognized that to really improve instruction, teachers need support from the district and campus leadership including provisions for planning time and aligning campus and district goals with Write for Texas objectives.
Communication of these goals resonated with another principal who is new to the initiative. She stated that the experience “caused me to reflect on my leadership and the ways to induct our staff into a new understanding of ‘why we write.’” She went on to pledge commitment to to modeling the guiding principles of Write for Texas on her campus and to embed the initiative into continuous improvement efforts.
More evidence of the interactive session’s impact was captured in the comments of several curriculum directors in attendance from various districts. One shared, “Working through all the activities provided the example of what should be happening in the classroom. The talking, writing, reading, is what really helps students learn any concept. I am taking many great ideas of how to better assist teachers to then assist students.” And another echoed that she will “incorporate specifics into the weekly professional learning communities (PLCs) with walk-through follow-ups and feedback.”
In addition to multiple writing station activities, attendees heard from panelists about the ways they support Writing Across the Curriculum on their campuses and remarks by Dr. Ellie Hanlon of the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at The University of Texas at Austin. The inaugural administrator development session will continue to serve as a model for project sites across the state to reach leadership in various roles and to generate support classroom teachers in Write for Texas schools at all levels. The joint effort between project sites to deliver area-wide professional development was the first of its kind.
For more information on Write for Texas Summer Institutes, please visit our Events page.
For inquiries about the administrator session please contact Susan Peeples, with the Coastal Bend Writing Project, at firstname.lastname@example.org.