This year, for our Annual Summer Institute, Brittany Richer Ahnrud, Emmanuel Ramos, and returning fellow Alyssa Mason, all members of our executive board, were lucky to be joined by six teachers from across the state for a digital Summer Institute. Although RIWP typically hosts the Summer Institute on campus at Rhode Island College, this year the group met online Monday-Thursday and held socially-distanced Field Trip Fridays. From July 6-24, these teachers re-engaged in the writing process as writers and students while learning about Trauma Informed Instruction, Culturally Responsive Teaching, and Anti-Racism. Participants came from across the state and from a variety of grade levels and specializations to share their expertise and learn from each other.
The first days of SI primarily focused on building community through activities like “Past/Present/Future Show and Tell” and Partner Interviews. The group read Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain and made connections to articles like ”Getting Started with Trauma Informed Instruction” by Alex Shevrin Venet and podcasts like The 1619 Project to build thinking about co-creating equity. Special guest Nancy Hedgpeth, dharma master from the Providence Zen Center, joined the Institute to teach about self-care and meditation practice. Field Trip Fridays provided time to explore and build on learning from the week in downtown Providence and Lincoln Woods.
In their exit surveys, participants wrote about their gratitude for the opportunity to focus on their writing. One teacher said, “I loved having the space to journal every morning. I reconnected with myself as a writer, and produced a piece I'm proud of. I'm also walking away feeling more empowered to build a strong writing community in the online classroom.”
Participants agreed that their greatest takeaway was “understanding others’ point of view” and “that expressing yourself through writing makes you feel more human, and that sharing your writing with others builds community.” They want other teachers to know that “The Writing Project empowers teachers to connect with themselves as writers, to make writing in the classroom a less formulaic and more joyful experience.”