Educators As Writers: Summer Workshop
Facilitators: Anne Barnhart & Jason Ryan
The Educators As Writers Summer Workshop had a successful debut even amid the restrictions of COVID-19. The goal of the workshop was to create a week-long writer’s experience for teachers who were looking to expand on something they’ve been crafting, or to provide inspiration for those who simply wanted to engage with a community of writers.
The participants represented middle school, high school, and college level teachers as well as a healthy mix of new and veteran teachers, which allowed for deep discussions on craft and provided a diverse range of perspectives. We used Zoom to facilitate our daily meetings and attempted to mirror the rhythms and traditions of our normal, in-person workshops. This was achieved by thoughtfully constructing a schedule that blended synchronous time (shared readings, journaling, discussion) and asynchronous time (independent writing time, break-out groups, “free time”).
Acknowledging the absence of Black voices in the group, there was a conscious choice to include Black authors and authors of color in the daily readings. These authors included Ta-Nehesi Coates, bell hooks, Sherman Alexie, Maya Angelou, Louis Armstrong, and Langston Hughes, just to name a few. Writers in the group pursued fiction, non-fiction, and scholarly work while keeping in the forefront issues of social justice, equity, and human connection.
In a short span of a week, we were able to build a strong sense of community, develop our own writing pieces, and by immersing ourselves in over 20 hours of workshops, reconnect with our writer’s soul.
Our week culminated with an in-person, socially-distanced event at Colt State Park in Bristol. We embarked on a scavenger hunt, spending the midday hours exploring the park and writing. The day ended with a sharing session beneath a shady tree with the ocean in view, and was a perfect end to an uplifting and inspiring week. There are many takeaways from the week, but perhaps the largest one is that even a global pandemic cannot kill the magic that comes from building a community of writers.
Voices of the Participants:
“I need to keep my craft and these discussions going with this incredible group. I'm realizing how much writing solo has discouraged me from writing in the first place. I'm no best-seller, but I damn near feel like one every time we break out for independent work time now.”
“Today I wrote BEFORE eating lunch which was huge. I got a lot more done that way. So something I already knew about myself but was confused. Writing, like yoga, needs to be done on a fairly empty stomach :). I also love reading other people's work. I'm learning a lot.”
“Here's something I wrote from my manifesto reflection: I am beginning again. Luckily writing is a practice that still waits for me, vastly patient and kind. Writing says, "Great! You're back, sweetheart! I missed you!”