Two years ago, our Western Massachusetts Writing Project went through an intensive self-look at the work we were doing and the teachers we were serving (or not serving) through a National Writing Project initiative called Project Outreach. The results of that study is now shaping the way we view ourselves as an organization of writers and teachers, from the places where we are offering our professional development, to ways in which we advertise our work, to the philosophical backbone of the decisions we make as an organization.
This year, we are launching into a theme of Inquiry around Language Diversity, and so many of our programs will be viewed through this lens. For example, this Saturday is our annual Best Practices event — a fall gathering for workshops and reunions — and the sessions hing around the theme of language and diversity. One session is about Code Switching. Another is about Validating Culture Wealth and Knowledge of ELL students. Yet another is helping students advocate for themselves.
Meanwhile, in conjunction with a UMass professor of linguistics (Lisa Green), our site is launching a year-long inquiry study group called Language Diversity in the Classroom. These sessions will center on attitudes towards language, native languages of all students, and how to understand and use language diversity for learning opportunities.
Finally, our WMWP Executive Board is going to be doing various pre-meeting readings around the diversity and language issues, and using those readings for our writing-into-the-meeting activities. The other day, we began with a passage from Paul Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and used it as a prompt to write about our own “hopeful inquiry.”
The passage from Friere ended with this:
“For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”
Here’s what I wrote, hanging on the “invention and reinvention” of the Friere passage.
I am the bear;
transformed by inner dreams of slumber.
I emerge hopeful, into the world
that I never saw coming,
yet brace myself for changes afoot.
A yawn; the pain of hunger;
I am driven forward towards new terrain
in hopes I find footing
along a path that I will create here myself.
I invent this world anew
each time, each season, I emerge from darkness
What’s your hopeful inquiry?
Peace (in the sharing),