It felt so familiar and fresh to give into my early morning restlessness and begin the day in darkness. I tried hard to keep Tuvia sleeping through my shower and prepping to leave, but no luck, we were actually showering simultaneously and as I grabbed for a towel, he handed me my essential 1/2 glass of OJ.
Just before 7, I was back in my car, prepping its audio bluetooth for Alec Baldwin’s latest NPR podcast.He could easily keep me distracted for my 62 miles ahead. The forecast for the day was rain and more rain, but maybe just the overcast skies would hold for me. One last wave to Tuvia, who would never go back for one last snooze, and I was off on very empty Paramus roads ready, I hoped, to kick-off our 13th Hudson Valley Writing Project’s Summer Institute.
For the past two years, Tom Meyer has been anchoring the SIs with different co-faciltation teams. As I step back in after my two-year hiatus we will be creating yet another new variation of a cohort. Christine, finishing up her Fulbright work in Finland will be joining me as a co-faciltator along with three returning fellows from last year’s team, 3 brand new returning fellows and a smaller than usual group of new teacher consultants. We will be fifteen in all which is not a bad number for our action-packed July ahead of us. Maybe more time for us to write and reflect and breathe!
Yes, it will take patience and careful planning to make sure everyone feels comfortable in this new community, but good thing that as I planned my trip to Finland, Tom and I found the time to plan for the orientation days and allowing for a smooth handoff, Tom will be spending the morning working along side me as we begin the essential work of creating a new cohort community.
With the exit just a mile ahead and Alec’s interview with Martin Green coming to an end, I grab my iPhone to check in with Tom to get a sense of where he is in his race to join me with the journals, lunch, coffee pot, handouts etc. In the early days of our work together the early-morning call was a welcome staple. He is gulping down one last sip of coffee with his wife, Julie and then ready to make his way to the college with a packed car.
Will I make it through the day finally freed of Fin jet lag?
I arrive in front of our Ed building with my pick of spots. There’s just spot taken by, Camile already there, waiting in her car. It’s great to see a familiar face for both us. She helps me empty my car and we search a bit for an open door and head up in the elevator to the second floor, to a room at the end of a hallway, which will be ours for next week and the rest of our SI in July. Jennie and Rebecca, more familiar faces are already wondering how we might set up the room. A U might be perfect!
Tom has arrived earlier than expected and the caravan begins to unload his car. So many details to consider. I hang back ready to welcome the newbies who enter with a bit sheepishly, not sure what they are doing here on a precious Saturday morning at 8.
Coffee is set, my bagels and muffins are nibbled and conversations quietly begin. It will never be this quiet again.
We wait for a few stragglers and the room is perfect. The U works to bring everyone into the community. I introduce myself and we begin with our morning ritual, Writing into the Day with an short article by writer Ken Haruf about how writers write. And we all write about how we, writers write for 15 minutes. It’s the most wonderful silence I know. I’ve remembered my bells. We come out of our writing to share in pairs. I make sure to share someone new, it’s Kenneth a wonderfully interesting and thoughtful person-writer. It’s an interesting conversation about his need to incubate his thoughts in writing. I focus on my issues with writing as a lefty- why it was so easy for me to give up the pen for the computer keyboard.
A full swift sharing as each new SI member shares the essence of that first writing in a brand new HVWP gifted journal.
We have invited Elaine, a teacher consultant from last summer’s SI to present her workshop on the power of using blocks and writing.
I’ve seen her present this workshop before and yes, it’s a wonderful way to kick off the this SI. Tom anchors the discussion as the group is introduced to the Teacher Inquiry Workshop strand. This is always the most challenging of all our challenges and no matter how clear it seems I know that it will be tough for the new members. I’m wondering if pairing up our returning fellows with each newbie will be effective. It’s worth a try and the smaller numbers allow for it.
I’m wondering too how we deal with the question now an issue, how can take something from this workshop, all workshops, back into their classrooms? What power do they still have over what they teach? How they teach? One of our new members, a 3rd grade teacher shares that because there isn’t enough funds to offer all teachers blocks, those that have a set has lost them in her school.
I’m wondering how we stay positive and supportive in this reformed world of school.
Tom leaves as we begin lunch. A few housekeeping details and we have just one activity scheduled for the afternoon. Heather leads an modeling introducing the reading strand with key National Writing Project text, Because Writing Matters, published in 2006.
As we read the introduction together, I’m wondering what others a thinking about a text written before the recent changes in public education. I hope there’s a update in the works. We all need it.
It’a good day, a really good day even though by the end of that day I can’t see straight. Jet Lag is still with me and the skies have opened sending down some powerful showers. But I pack up, share last goodbyes and head for home.
Yes, this will be a good one, a great one when I get my mo-jo totally working.