CRWP’s March Feature Spotlight

Congratulations to Becky Schwartz for being CRWP’s  March Feature Spotlight! Please take a moment and read about Becky below.

I’ve been with CRWP since 2015 (6 years now) and I think probably the greatest experience I had was when I realized that none of the work that was done in our organization was a competition. It wasn’t about who is doing what better, whose been teaching longer, or who has a better position. It is about passionate people coming together and sharing what they do, but also wanting to learn from others to keep striving towards excellence for the students in their classroom.

I can’t pick just one thing that is my favorite part about teaching writing. Its probably a tie between creating interesting and engaging low stakes writing activities and circumstances that help push my students towards the bigger writing tasks and success and getting to understand who my students are as writers. I love having those writing conferences were you can ask students about the moves and choices they make in their own writing and they explain what is going on in their brain. It blows me away.

The Quick Reference Guide I wrote with other teacher consultants in CRWP is the most recent thing I’ve published. It means a lot to me because I really enjoyed the creative working process the group of us went through in writing this and its a culmination of a lot of the aspects about teaching writing that I believe teachers can use.

One of the books that I’ve read in the last few years that always sticks out in my mind is Beartown by Fredrik Backman. One of the things I love about reading are the characters that captivate and draw me in. Every one of the characters in this book drew me in for many reasons. The dueling perspectives the author puts back to back in the text forced me to see the issues in totally new perspectives, sometimes within pages of each other. Also, I really really dislike most sports and this book is based around hockey and it managed to grab my attention in a way no other book that is based around sports has. I read those types of books so I can talk to the teenage boys in my classroom, and because I enjoy them. I felt like I couldn’t come up for air until I finished this book.

Time and experience are two words I would give to new teachers. This is a maddening expression my mentor teacher used to tell me when I often asked questions. I used to be really frustrated in my first two years of teaching and I didn’t have the exact right answer, the right technique, or the right idea for the current challenge I was facing. I didn’t realize there is never going to be the perfect answer ever and that part of the reason master educators are educators because they have just had time to master their crafts and experience. Trust the process, you’ll get there.  I still kind of dislike admitting how right she was about that piece of advice.

Becky has been a teacher for 7 years and currently teaches at Springport High School in Springport Public Schools in Michigan. You can follow Becky on Twitter: @RSchwartz702 .

Learn with National Writing Projects of Michigan this Summer!

NWPM Summer 2021 Screenshot

Join us in the Summer of 2021 for Youth Camps and Professional Development Events

With the summer months nearing, National Writing Project sites across Michigan are sharing their upcoming youth camps and professional development events.

Please use the calendars below to find dates, times, and links to registration pages for various sessions from multiple NWP sites, or copy and paste these short links!

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Diverse Texts in the Classroom – Session #6 of the CRWP 2020-21 Webinar Series

Diverse Texts in the Classroom Cover Slide

In our February webinar, two of our teacher consultants Ana Contreras (@AnaContrerasENG) of Harper College and Angela Berent (@a_berent) of Grass Lake Public Schools presented an experience they had sharing diverse texts and doing social justice units in their classroom. Both teachers were inspired by reading Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zarretta Hammond and discussed how they used “The Danger of A Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in their classroom. 

Both teachers used Adichie’s TED Talk to discuss race, culture, and identify. Ana and Angela had their students collaborate and did a shared discussion using Flipgrid with their two classrooms. Angela teaches 8th grade and Ana teaches community college. Both teachers discussed the enjoyment they had working with each other and how much it pushed them to further develop their unit. Ana and Angela also discussed the engagement and growth they saw from their students during this project.

Ana and Angela shared about the pre-work they had done for this unit in order to respect student privacy, gain parent permissions, and teach digital citizenship for this project. An additional, intentional choice both teachers had in place was that they previewed all student videos before they became live, using moderation features on Flipgrid. Both educators discussed the importance of this work for allowing both sets of their students to have a real and authentic audience using technology. 

They also discussed the importance of allowing students to guide the discussion and giving open-ended questions, as well as choice who they talked to. Ana’s college students could choose to talk to one of their classmates, or an 8th grader. Both educators remarked about how eye-opening this was to bring new voices and ideas in their classroom. Angela’s students were encouraged to see they were learning some of the things that people in college were, too, and to see more diversity. Moreover, Ana’s students were thrilled to get the chance to discuss and learn from the experiences of younger students as well as to mentor them. 

Finally, Ana and Angela discussed reflections and ideas for future attempts at doing this unit. They want to do this type of unit again, and there were insights that they shared with us for educators who are considering doing something similar in their own classroom. They shared the joy of a collaborative process, the value of involving your administration in the process, and the importance of careful and intentional planning. They also shared the idea that though this is difficult at times it’s an important and necessary work. 

Here are the slides that Angela and Ana shared with us about their collaborative work. 

We welcome you to sign up for future webinar sessions and we invite you to follow CRWP on Facebook or on Twitter: @chippewariverwp.

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CRWP’s February Feature Spotlight

Congratulations to Sharon Murchie for being CRWP’s  February Feature Spotlight. Please take a moment and read about Sharon below.

I was in the 2015 cohort. Specific memory is connecting with Janet Neyer, and writing a book chapter together about something we are both passionate about: teaching students to be discerning users of the Internet. Not only was it our first major print publication, but it really allowed us the chance to work together and craft something that we were really proud of. Sitting in a booth at Panera together, editing and finalizing our submission, and watching it all come together, was amazing. I still remember cheering when I suddenly realized what the final sentence of the chapter needed to be and how we celebrated.

My favorite thing about teaching writing is grading papers. J/K. I love witnessing the student growth in confidence, as they start to believe that maybe they CAN write, and that they not only are allowed to use their voice and express themselves, but they SHOULD.

A recent published piece is “How a Bad Bill Becomes a Bad Law,” is at Tropics of Meta. It’s actually part of my doctoral dissertation. Not only was I passionate about the research behind this piece, but it’s a genre I’ve never written in before. Not only does this piece solidify the fact that I am a writer, but it allowed me to see that I could actually be a journalist. I can do more than write academic papers: I can seek out and find truth.

My Tropics of Meta byline is here:

Almost everything else I’ve published that is available digitally is linked to my LinkedIN:

Book chapter w/Janet:


CRWP byline:

Medium byline:

My favorite authors are John Steinbeck and Zora Neale Hurston.

John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath is a masterpiece blending journalism and fiction. It’s a call to arms and it still is so powerful today. Cannery Row is such a gorgeous sketch of humanity. East of Eden is a saga of strength and weakness and survival. Love his writing. It’s gritty and honest and gutting and hopeful.

Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie is so strong and beautiful inside and out. She is a powerhouse, and she takes no shit from anyone. She knows who she is and she is profound. And the book is such an incredible capture of humanity, of culture, of language. It’s just a gorgeous book. When her Nanny says, “Put me down easy, Janie, Ah’m a cracked plate.” –I feel that. I know what that feels like, to feel fragile and vulnerable, and to have your fate –your survival– be in someone else’s hands. When Janie said, “She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over.” That is exactly the perfect way to express that feeling: when someone lets us down, when we realize that we had somehow idolized them and they were just someone we made up, someone we pinned our hopes to and our future on, and they can never live up to our expectations of them.

My words of advice to new teachers is “You will never be perfect. But you will be enough.” It is absolutely crushing for new teachers to realize that, no matter how many hours they put in, no matter how much energy and passion they bring, no matter how much they care, no matter how much they strive for excellence…kids will fail. Parents will be angry. Admin will find the tiniest flaw and make us feel like a failure. But kids failing does not mean that we failed. And flaws are not failure. We are human, and we will make mistakes and we literally cannot do it all, save them all, and be all that they need, no matter how much of ourselves we give. But what we can be is authentic, vulnerable, real, honest, reflective, striving. And that is enough. We have to allow ourselves to be enough.

Sharon has been a teacher for 25 years and currently teaches at Okemos High School in Michigan. You can follow Sharon on Twitter: @smurchies.