Saturday, March 26, 2011

NWP: Time of Transition

 As the hour-long conference call among local-site leaders of the National Writing Project drew to its conclusion, that sense of transition, of ending and possible beginning, resonated further out and into the surrounding chamber in which Congress and the White House have been ending this era of federal funding for special projects.  This closing door suffused my being sufficiently that I felt a tremor coming from the passionate conviction and the enormous commitment built up over so many years and now pressed into this shared moment in time.  So the pulse I felt wasn’t limited to the twenty or so of us participating in that particular telephone call, but it encompassed the other one hundred eighty site leaders and the uncountable, almost-invisible staffers who provide service at NWP functions, always with smiles and open hearts, mirrors of the organization’s essence.  Although the echo was at some remove, when listening deeply we also perceive the reach of NWP into almost every classroom in our nation, at least those that evidence the trust and respect for teachers teaching teachers. 

But mostly, in that Friday afternoon, I felt the warm gratitude, just as it rises again now from my chest toward my eyes, for Elyse, Joye, Mike, and Judy who in leading this call, like others at the center of the organization, were giving themselves again to a great work, and especially because they were at the core of the surge of disappointment in the loss of funding and the layoff of NWP staff.  Their integrity, another hallmark of NWP, required that they speak the hard truth, as best they knew it, of the shift from external federal support to local initiative.  The promise, WE WILL PERSIST, anchors our place, but . . .  Although my mind attempts to argue for opportunity in this political complex, my heart cries at the betrayal and failure.  The totality of my being, tempered in over forty years of professional educational research, teaching, and service, knows with full confidence that the National Writing Project is true.  True to the vision of public education: freedom and equality for all.  Truer than any other professional organization that I’ve known.

NWP affirms the respect and trust that, more than anything else, empowers the classroom teacher to trust and respect his and her children.  It’s about as simple as that; and, as deep simplicity goes, it’s diamond rare.  Standing against most educational policy at all levels, NWP believes that the teacher does not have to be micro-managed, fed robotic-curricula, or watched like a hawk watches for prey.  NWP believes in knowledge that grows organically in and by the specific community of learners.  The organization acts with the most passionate conviction I’ve found in any professional community in order to establish and nurture the complex infrastructure to support this essence.  The support includes caring for each site and investing in the frontier of technology so that attention can be found at the moment of readiness and need.

I want to believe that truth wins, and I do; but it’s not on my timetable or in my immediate eyesight.  I accept that passion encompasses suffering as well as joy.  I believe good people find a way, with the old notion of when a door closes another opens, although sometimes it’s rather difficult to find.  Mostly, right now, I just want to express gratitude for all the heart, soul, and mind that good people have dedicated to the National Writing Project.  Thank you.