To Those in Search of Inspiration,
At the age of 38 I received a college acceptance letter.
The glossy green school seal shinned from the pile of envelopes filled with bills, credit card applications, and coupons on a cool spring evening. This package was what I was waiting for the past couple weeks. The other envelopes from the day cascaded from my hands onto the top of my oak antique table with little importance. This message could change my life.
I broke the seal of the academic message from miles away. My eyes skimmed over the words on the page, and a smile began to curl up at the end of my lips. Eyes beaming, mind racing, and my inner voice chanting songs of celebration, I realized the verdict.
Michigan State University's informed me that I allowed to attend Red Cedar Writing Project. Attending this program was one of the best decisions I have made for myself as a teacher and as a person.
After completing this course, I have realized that this was just the beginning of a fantastical journey toward my newfound discovery of my role in education. In a small span of time, I have come to realize that my real potential has just begun as a leader. I have so much more to give to my colleagues, my students, and others to honor my profession. The skills learned at RCWP have developed my voice, and I am ready to use it in my passion for children.
This school setting challenged me tremendously. One of my RCWP cohort members said it best, "This is like grad school, but on steroids." There were times that I would fall asleep at late hours of the night with academic books piled up next to me instead of pillows. I found myself staring out of windows and writing down words of inspiration instead of hearing the chatter of family members at a holiday gathering. I spent over three hours working on one project that I desperately wanted to share with the world. I opened up my work to new audiences and spoke to mindful critics, asking them to listen and examine my words, actions, and beliefs. In many ways, this was a defining moment in the second half of my career.
I've developed friendships with people that I would never have crossed paths with without attending Red Cedar Writing Project. I heard the elementary perspective and have developed an appreciation for their craft. I watched the struggles of the person who just wants a school district to give him a chance to change students lives. I was able to see the passion of a person whose job was being held in purgatory with union talks and funding availability. I had intelligent conversations with a person who on the outside seemed to be the complete contrast of me, but underneath, was comparable in energy, life's struggles, and dedication. This was a collection of people who were there to lift me up instead of pulling me down. Each person, including my two mentors that I value and admire, have made me more complete. Having these people in my lives has brung me joy than can be explained on paper.
I grew stronger by being part of this program. Standing in front of peers to do teaching demonstrations were nerve-wracking to prepare for, but rewarding when completed. Reading inspirational literature like The Activist Learner and Bird by Bird opened up lenses that I hadn't looked through before. I learn new strategies to improve not only my students' writing but my own. I felt my heart race at new ideas that for the upcoming school year. In completing the portfolio, I was amazed at my work ethic and dedication. It had been ten years since I had done anything connected with the college setting, and I have never felt more accomplished.
There were struggles in thinking and preparation of my portfolio. Anne Lamott said it best that you shouldn't allow perfection to get in your way in completing your writing. Once I found my path, I felt inspired in making each piece displayed on my web page. I wanted to make items that I could use in my classroom immediately, and that other teachers would find useful. All the pieces of my portfolio have changed me, and I'm excited to make the adjustments that are necessary to build more productive citizens and build literacy appreciation. I am elated to have stronger skills to develop writers that can love what they put on paper.
My curiosity with where this path will lead me makes my soul joyous. I don't know what path I may be in for the next 15-20 years of my career, but this experience will be an essential component in making me able to move ahead with confidence, determination, and bliss. It is my hopes that others find the joy that I was able to have in becoming a fellow of Red Cedar Writing Project.
Best Wishes Always,
Red Cedar Writing Project Fellow
National Writing Project Teacher-Consultant