This year was the Morehead Writing Project’s 25th Summer Institute and my third as site director. I truly love leading the Summer Institute for a number of reasons. It is collaborative teaching at its best and I have had the privilege of working with some really great teachers. This year I think we had the best team yet. Our strengths and weaknesses balanced well and our personalities meshed so that we just had a lot of fun. Leading a Summer Institute is long days of hard work (and long nights of prepping for the next day) but it is so rewarding we are able to push through. While our goal is to help the teachers who join us learn and grow as writers, teachers, researchers, and leaders, we always learn a great deal from the experience as well.
It is very difficult to describe the Summer Institute. It is a class (Eng 608/609) but it is also a Fellowship. Our Fellows must apply and undergo a review process before receiving an invitation to attend. We strive to create a diverse group and typically have teachers from K-16 in a variety of content areas from art to technology to social studies to math. We work very hard to create a sense of community as we know that is crucial to learning in general and writing in specific.
My collaborative teaching partners include a high school teacher and an elementary school teacher so each teacher in the room has a leader they can approach comfortably and can help them make connections at their grade level. We each take turns offering writing prompts to start the day and then providing mini lessons on a variety of topics from literacy narratives to writing workshop to student publishing. In addition, we provide support and coaching as our Fellows prepare their own teaching demonstrations and lead discussion after each demo about ways the lesson could be adapted for different students and content etc. The Fellows also break into writing groups and book groups. These are led by Returning Fellows who have gone through an SI previously, but sometimes it is necessary for us to provide additional support for these groups.
A primary challenge for me is to help the Fellows develop individual inquiry projects focused on a particular challenge or need they see in their classrooms. This involves a number of lessons and prompts as well as individual conferences.