THE BLOG
03/28/2011 03:36 pm ET | Updated May 28, 2011

Not on Our Watch: Let's Ensure Funding for the National Writing Project

Dear Friends:

If you know me at all, then you know that I carry a very special appreciation for the work of the National Writing Project. I talk pretty much whenever and wherever I can about the work of the NWP and what it has meant to me as a teacher, as a writer and as a person.

In short, it's by far the best professional development experience/community/network I've ever been involved in.

And, fortunately, it has survived, grown and flourished these last 20 years with support from the federal government -- originally, the National Endowment for the Humanities and then the Department of Education. (You can read more about the history of the NWP in James Gray's memoir about its founding, Teachers at the Center. I'm reading it right now, and it's quite useful.) Sometimes, the good guys win.

Unfortunately, on March 8, 2011, that federal support ended, at least for the moment, when President Obama signed a continuing resolution that eliminated NWP's, as well as several other groups' educational budgets. As of October 1, 2011, there will be no federally-funded National Writing Project. In preparation for that, the NWP laid off 60 percent of its staff last week and announced to local site directors that they will have to reduce their local funding by 25 percent.

And that breaks my heart.

I need your help to fix this mess.

You are movers and shakers in your respective worlds. People listen to you and seek your counsel. On many occasions, I've sought you out for assistance and/or advice. I need your help to help restore funding to the National Writing Project through whatever reasonable, rational and responsible means necessary.

That's, well, pretty much all I've got. I suspect that the usual avenues for these sorts of situations are to do two things:

1. Get the word out about the power of the NWP
2. Ask people with access to money if the NWP can have some.

You may not know much about the project, so I thought I'd tell you a little bit more before I ask you to do at least one of those two things.

Basically, the National Writing Project is a powerful professional development organization. They work with universities and schools to build spaces where teacher expertise is shared and valued. Specifically, they work to promote the ideas that:

1. The best teachers of writing are writers themselves.
2. The best teachers of teachers are teachers themselves.
3. The best way to make a difference in classrooms is to invest in thoughtful, reflective inquiry and practice among teachers and their students. Cross-pollinate like crazy, and let teachers be teachers.

They'd say it a little bit differently, but I'm thinking that, if you know me at all, as a teacher, as a learner, as a colleague or as a writer, then you know the National Writing Project. I am the professional that I am in no small measure due to my exposure to the NWP; our local affiliate, the Colorado State University Writing Project; the influence of the NWP on my teachers and professors; and my interactions with NWP colleagues and friends around the country.

The National Writing Project believes in teachers and their agency at a time when almost no one else does. They believe that students, teachers and administrators should write regularly -- to include composition in all kinds of media, from papercraft to circuitboard to movie to audio to video game to good ol' fashioned paper.

The power of writing and the power of teachers are two things that we need plenty of in this country right now.

So here's the part where I ask for your help and thank you for sticking around in this letter for as long as you have. If you remember that list a little while back, I need your help to either make noise or find money. So I was hoping that you might be inclined to take some sort of action. I'll break down a few easy ways you can help:

Advocacy:
  • Write your Congressperson and tell them of the importance of the National Writing Project. NCTE has an easy-to-use form.
  • Call your Congressperson to follow up. Repeatedly. It's okay. They work for us. Be polite.
  • Write publicly about your exposure to and experience with the work of the NWP or your desire to fund work like the NWP's.
  • Help NWP teachers find venues to share their expertise and remind them to mention the NWP as they do so. Offer them conference and non-conference sessions where they can write with your organization.
  • Write a #blog4nwp.
  • Borrow these easy tweets. Post them. Often.
Fundraising:
  • Make a donation to the NWP
  • Write your Congressperson, etc.
  • Investigate hiring your local Writing Project to do some in-service in your area. They work for reasonable rates and you'll get a high-quality, teacher-led, centered experience.
  • Ask the people you know that work for foundations and corporations if they're aware of the awesomeness of the National Writing Project. Introduce them. Politely ask for support.
  • You know that uncle or cousin or whatever that you've not spoken to in forever who went to work for that person that is in charge of whatever it was? Drop them a note and let them know about the NWP.
I hope that you're able to take one or more of these actions to help ensure that the National Writing Project remains a viable force for teaching, learning and writing into the 22nd Century -- and hopefully longer. Writing doesn't go out of style -- it just keeps changing.

Writing matters. And the National Writing Project does, too.

All the best to you.

Bud