Here is what folks have said
about the Summer Writing Institutes:
Jen says: Seven Valleys was hands down, one of the BEST writing PDs (and much more) that I was privileged enough to attend throughout my thirteen years of teaching. Every teacher should have the opportunity to expand their point of view regarding writing, thinking, and teaching in this capacity. I walked away with dignity, a plethora of new skills, innovative and sound ideas, renewed energy, and a lovely network of passionate people dedicated to teaching and inspiring students. When the state came into Nottingham with a consultant from London earlier in the year to observe teachers, they praised a lesson that I was using and said there should be more of “this” taking place in our classrooms. This lesson [I presented] was from the Seven Valleys PD. [Classroom observer] Dr. Pedro Noguera was also highly impressed that our district sent teachers to this program and suggested keeping it going with our students. — Jenniffer Benedetto, English Teacher/ Spotlighting Justice Coordinator, Nottingham High School
The experience is transformative – writing is generative, sure, but in this case there could not have been anything better. Any writer or educator would flourish in this environment [as it is] both intellectual and nurturing together.
I have attained much knowledge to be used I my classroom, as well as great theory to insure continued work and research into areas to better myself as a learner and teacher.
I never imagined working so hard during July and liking it so much.
The rigor of this course comes from a perfect balance of theory, practice, and exploration.
The seminar has been a transformative experience.
The Institute was a fantastic way to meet and collaborate with other professionals in a respectful, fun, and enlightening environment. The course provided insight into more effective ways to teach writing, as well as ways to improve my personal writing, and I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned and put it into practice in my classroom!
This [Summer Institute] has been the most meaningful and thought provoking [PD] that I have ever experienced.
My experience at SI has been the single most transformative educational experience of my life. I am thrilled to return to my classrooms this fall, to create the same kind of learning experience [in my classes] created for me here, at SI.
This writing seminar has been the best thing I’ve done in my teaching career. It has been effective due to David Franke’s and Brian Fay’s leadership and organization.
This Summer Institute has … gotten me excited to get back into my classroom and try out all my new ideas. I want to give my students the same opportunities to write, think, collaborate, and learn that I have been so luck y to enjoy.
This course has been more meaningful to me than any other aspect of my college education or professional development.
Every teacher who wants to grow and reflect should participate in the Seven Valleys Writing Project.
If you’ve never had the chance to have the intensity of writing, this is it. You make the discoveries of what you need to know. It’s a process of intense discovery.
I’m a better writer. That says a lot. I have a lot more confidence as a writing teacher than I ever had before.
I have been teaching writing for a long time but I have so much more confidence.
Very few people have ever been part of a learning community that really works, and this works.
Generative writing is so authentic to me now that I’ve experienced it.
The whole thrust is to get teachers writing so they can speak and teach writing from a position of personal knowledge, experience, and passion about it.
We still have to pay homage to state assessments, but through the project, I’ve learned about ways to bridge the gap. I’ve also become a better writer in the process, and can speak with students from a new position of personal passion and experience as a writer myself.
A teacher involved in summer institute is immersed in The Writing Life, and thus understands the process we are asking our students to be immersed in.
We will not go into classroom alone, because we have ties now to other writer/teachers who will listen to our self-doubts, respond thoughtfully to our questions, rejoice with our successes.
I learned that writing is important to all learning, and I learned that I am capable of teaching that to others in a simple non-threatening way. (Wendy Brown)
I go home and I want to stay up and write. I can’t fall asleep because I can’t stop thinking about the work we did all day. I can’t stop thinking about writing.
June: What is changing for me as a result of this seminar? Definitely the steps in the process presented in the demos will be a big change for me. I added math and science journalling several years ago and have been happy with the results. For several years, our district has worked a great deal on writing. As a result, I feel I have come a long way in my approach to teaching a writing “lesson”. A missing piece in teaching writing is the process I have learned here. It has never occurred to me to write, share, reflect, write, share, publish. All of these things go on in the classroom just not put together in small chunks of time…that I have ever seen before. I also believe we have to fall on our face sometimes in order to snap out of our ruts and look at things differently. I know people who avoid those moments at all costs. I like to learn from them in order to grow.
Angela: My mind is turned on again after hibernating for too long. I am thinking non-stop about ideas for my students and for my writing. My research is helping to ground me in what I want to do in my new position. I am re evaluating my ideas as a teacher and how I will make the most of my time with my students. I am beginning to see myself as a writer.
Nancy: I am returning to my roots. I believe in authentic learning, but have been sucked in by the dissection thinking that has stemmed from the RTI [evaluation] process in our district. We are being led to think away from learning that is real to students. I’m climbing back…. But am wrestling with how to gather the data we must and still keep my teaching soul.
Tödd: I remember that SI 2008, I changed as a writer, and as a teacher. I use writing in my classroom more often, write, talk, write, publish has become a staple in the class that has made it so I can gain full participation. I’ve written more this summer than I ever would have on my own, read articles that I would not have picked up, and had numerous conversations that hone and change how I am as a teacher and a person. My friends think I have something wrong with me as I tell them about core standards and writing prompts as we paint and lay flooring in my house.
The newest learning, however, is that I am learning to become more comfortable leading groups of adults. I have created and delivered at least four demos his summer [a demo is a professional development presentation that uses writing to learn], and I am becoming more confident in my ability to teach as a professional developer. I am eager to write and present to adults on core standards, but mostly to continue to teach write to learn strategies that are so valuable in all subjects.
Gloria: What is changing for me as a result of this seminar? I am re-defining how I teach. I believe I am a writer at heart. No matter what I do I must write. It feels like this seminar, these teachers, colleagues, teacher consultants have validated incorporating writing at the core of my teaching delivery. Participating in the demos has been invaluable. My research question is what does a writing to learn math classroom look like. I can see. My goals are always to achieve mastery, teach the entire curriculum. (I always have to re-teach some skills that are considered prior knowledge.) Looking at Km’s demo I got the idea to start with a math symbol or equations and ask colleagues or students to tell me everything they know about it. This I have done before, but did not have students share with each other, rewrite or publish.
Amy: I am being challenged to write and to write better than a third grader (which, when I am in a rush, that is as good as I need to be). But, really, it’s not as good as I need to be. I need to model for students that writing doesn’t always have to be polished and finished, but it needs to be the best I can make it at that time.
This summer is making me want to infuse more writing throughout my day and year in more meaningful ways (in content areas), but not drag it out. Write for 3 minutes may be enough for much of the time.