Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom--Building New Pathways to Leadership

Conventional wisdom in the National Writing Project has traditionally been that the path toward leadership is through the Summer Institute. At a recent retreat in Austin, Texas, about 75 writing project folks from all over the country with different roles in their local sites (teachers, directors, graduate students, administrators, etc.) convened to challenge conventional wisdom. We first created a "metro map" in which we documented the "metro stops" on our pathways to leadership. Yes, the Summer Institute was an important point, but not the only one, and not for everyone, in this diverse group. Here is our reconfigured metro map after meeting in small groups:
A pattern I noticed in the map is that for most of the leaders in the room, a defining moment on their
path to leadership was the opportunity to create a new program or take ownership of an existing program and create something new and innovative. That made me think about what kinds of opportunity we offer in our site for this and who takes up the opportunities.

At our own site's leadership retreat this past summer, I talked about broadening our leadership base, and I am pleased to see not only new faces at our monthly leadership meetings, but also new activities and programs that have involved new leaders. Kim Rensch, Andi Fox, and Sara Miller started a new writing crawl that is being sustained by the involvement of Angie Hase, who is being supported by Pam Fisher and myself to develop our writing retreat into a one-credit class. Our previous director, Kim Donehower, has returned to offer argument writing institutes. Dan Dooher opened up his new Young Adult Literature book club to the RRVWP last year, and group members are now contributing to our blog. Speaking of which, the pioneering efforts of Nancy Devine and Pam Fisher have now been supplemented by Erika Dyk, a leader that we adopted from the Norther Plains site, undergraduate Celena Todora, and our new assistant Maggie Wheeler. These individuals have drawn several of you into our blog content, through teacher features, articles you have been asked to write, and through initiatives to reward your involvement in our comment section. Caitlin Johnson helped lead the design and implementation of the Turtle Mountain Teen Writing Camp. Lori Hieserich, Jenna Trosvik, and Joyce Holkup leveraged their summer institute experiences into a writing intensive institute for Circle of Nations schools. Marci Glessner has relocated to Fargo, where she is helping Olivia Edwardson with our site's involvement with the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She also wrote an NWP LRNG grant proposal to fund a family literacy program. This list illustrates that within our own site the path to leadership is not homogenous or linear, but it is broadening!

But who and what are we missing? There is another grant available to sites called the NWP Building New Pathways to Leadership Grant. This is a design challenge. The goal of this grant is to expand access to our programs and build new pathways for teachers underserved by and/or underrepresented in current leadership development efforts. The grant award is $10,000 and the proposal is due February 17th. I have talked with Anthony Albright, a writing teacher and a veteran, who worked with Lori Koenig on the Warrior Words Writing Workshop in fall of 2014. Are teachers of veterans a group we should build a pathway for? What about rural teachers? Native American teachers? Teachers of New Americans? Contingent faculty at our state colleges? Anyone who is interested in brainstorming how we might respond to this challenge is encouraged to attend the next leadership meeting on Sunday, January 30th at 3:30pm at NDSU. --Kelly Sassi
Cairns on the walking trail at Travaasa Resort in Austin, Texas