One of the oldest chapters of the National Writing Project turns 40 this year. The Ohio Writing Project housed at Miami University is devoted to improving the teaching of writing and learning.
The National Writing Project was founded in Berkeley, California, in 1974. "We're the first site in Ohio and we're one of the first sites that spread out of California," says Beth Rimer, co-director of the Ohio Writing Project.
The Ohio Writing Project (OWP), founded in 1980, offers workshops and programs on improving the teaching of writing by teachers in grades K-12. Teachers can earn graduate credits, and there's a masters program as well. The OWP serves teachers across Southwest Ohio and across western Ohio up to Toledo.
Rimer says the OWP helps teachers hone their craft and practice writing, as well as recall what it's like to share their work. "We remember what it feels like to be a student, so then it makes us better teachers of reading and writing because we're remembering that whole process."
The Project also gives teachers space to learn on their own and from each other. Teachers also create networks to rely on in the future. "Once you're a Writing Project teacher, you're always a Writing Project teacher.
"It's really this idea of teachers teaching teachers that's the core of the Writing Project."
Summer workshops are underway at Miami's Voice of America Learning Center. Participants in the Teaching of Writing workshop give up a month of their summer vacation to spend time in a classroom writing, learning and sharing practices from their classrooms.
Zack Jung just wrapped up his second year teaching 10th and 11th grade general English along with speech and theater at Wapakoneta High School.
"I was looking for an opportunity to grow as both an educator and an individual and as I was doing my research this program really spoke to me because of the authenticity that it was grounded in and its 'teachers teaching teachers' mantra."
Jung, who says he's never considered himself a writer, likes how the program challenges him to step out of his comfort zone. "Already in a week and two days, I feel like I've grown into the writer that has always been inside of me."
When students return in the fall, he intends to make writing an everyday thing in his classroom rather than a separate, occasional activity. He feels his students sometimes don't value the importance of writing and the role it will play in their futures.
"That's another thing I hope to bring forward this year. Through this course already it's taught me that writing is something that's ambiguous and it's something that's open-ended that allows us each to define it in our own way. I think by presenting that idea to my students, they may be able to have a better understanding and appreciation for the writing that they're producing and understanding that they may not be the next Edgar Allen Poe but they're still writing and they're still finding their own voice, which I think is powerful."