Tuesday, November 28, 2017

National Writing Project Annual Meeting 2017: Part Three Thursday Afternoon Sessions and Evening Events

Listening to the Bisti Writing Project Leaders (Director Michael Thompson is on my left) talk about their outpost work. 
After a great morning at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in St. Louis, I (Kelly Sassi) continued on to an afternoon and evening of thought-provoking sessions and events.

 1:30-3:00pm Round B: New Pathways to Leadership

Two years ago, I was privileged to attend the kick-off retreat in Texas for this grant-funded project to develop new pathways into the National Writing Project, and, since our site did not get this grant, I wanted to sit in and find out what the funded sites had done. After hearing an overview of the activities from all the sites, we got to choose one to sit with for a deeper discussion. I chose to sit with the Bisti Writing Project, which is located in Farmington, New Mexico and directed by Michael Thompson. Like us, they are surrounded by rural land and have a high proportion of Native American people in their region. Lavelda, a TC from the site, decided to return to the classroom and her home in Red Mesa. She started one of the site’s two “outpost teams.” It was interesting to hear how the site facilitated the work of the outpost. This is definitely a model we could use here in North Dakota. They are working on a monograph that will tell us more about the work.  

3:30-5:00pm Round C: We Won’t Be Complicit: Writing Assessment for Social Justice

Truth be told, I was getting pretty tired by this session, but the dynamic presenter, Stephanie West-Puckett, kept things lively by inviting us to dive into
some deep reading of Mya Poe and Asao Inoue’s introduction to the November 2016 special issue of College English on Writing Assessment as Social Justice. A quote that stood out to me is the following: “Since validity arguments are rhetorical in nature, they are also subjective, meaning they are made from subject positions by people—by individuals or groups—and thus require particular worldviews, values, and dispositions to be understood and accepted” (122). We discussed this article and the one by the presenter at our tables.

5:00-6:30pm Evening Social

For the social, I met with Debra Samdperil, of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards to talk with other writing project sites who serve as state affiliates for the Awards. I have emailed with some of the folks who do this work this fall in my new role on the Affiliate Advisory Board of the Awards. Other site directors also find it tremendously meaningful to support creative teens in their state in being recognized at the state level and finding access to national awards and opportunities. It was very easy for me to talk up this program with sites directors who are interested in becoming affiliates.

7-9pm American Creed documentary film screening

We had a special opportunity in the evening—to see the DEBUT of a new documentary film the ideals we hold in common in America: American Creed. It is a ground-breaking film that is inspiring in that it shows how people who normally live completely divided lives, like the founder of MoveOn.org and the founder of the Tea Party, can dialogue respectfully with each other and even become friends. We need to watch this film in North Dakota and have conversations about how we can find our common ideals.

What an incredible day—I felt like my mind and heart would explode by the end of this evening. And my back definitely was telling me that it had endured too much sitting for one day. I fell asleep with all kinds of ideas swirling in my head.