Saturday, March 7, 2015, a group of teachers left the Beard building on Main St. in Cortland, feeling invigorated, rather than deflated, after a four-hour professional development workshop.

I know—unbelievable. You might ask, how does this come about?

Teachers of The Seven Valleys Writing Project learn through writing. Teachers are the experts. And teachers teach teachers.

So, what’d we do?

In our workshop, “Our Best Writing Assignments: Reflection and Experimentation,” teachers brought writing assignments they love, struggle with, are composing, or simply want feedback on. We self-assessed. What were the benefits of their writing assignments? What were the drawbacks?

Each teacher introduced their assignment, discussed the pros and cons, and, most importantly, received feedback on how to push their thinking further in order to help their students learn. One teacher said “The best writing assignments I give are the ones that I get excited about doing,” and this kind of breakthrough gave us energy.

Then we took one for a test-drive. Our group learned to compose letters of grace and advice under the expert guidance of Kathy Redman (SI 2014). These legacy letters created a contemplative community striving to express, in exactly the right way, our wishes for those who we would guide. They were leading us towards better teaching.

Over the course of the day, we wrote about our writing assignments. We discussed their pros and cons, and we gave feedback to one another to further our own thinking. My own writing assignment transformed over the course of the workshop into a more effective exercise. We test drove a writing assignment, and we collected ideas to bring back to our own classrooms. We wrote, we shared, and we learned.


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