Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste.
Nah, that sounds vaguely familiar, and not nearly close to the truth.
Hi, I’m Mike, and I’m a Patch blogger.
(All: Hi, Mike.)
No, too twelve-step. This is the internet, man. Gotta be edgy, gotta be twenty-second century, 5G when you make your entrance. How about…
Face it, you have no idea how to open a blog. Just tell them that you’re Mike McAteer, and that the “localness” of your voice is the result of your English teacherness at New Canaan High School.
Ok, fine. I’m Mike McAteer, and I teach English at your public high school. Truth be told, I wasn’t completely sold that this blog thing was a good idea. The way I see it, a blog has to have a point, and my position as a teacher compromises to some degree the points I might make.
I can’t really do a political blog, because in the classroom, my politics should be invisible. Don’t really want to do a literature blog, because I’d like to actually have readers. Don’t want to do an education blog, because I don’t want to be a spokesmodel for all things educational, and when it comes to the policy issues out there, I’m not really an expert. And the one thing I have genuine expertise in – being Me – well, there’s not a really big market for that kind of expertise.
Nevertheless, before I could decline the invitation, I had a light bulb moment. Writing! I like writing – you probably like it, too. Heck, you’re reading it right now! And what if I could inspire people to write? That would be a worthwhile endeavor. I’d share little writing stories, use lots of names of people who have inspired me, play around with forms. Voila, I have a blog.
But not so fast. There came another little hiccup: the profile photo. O, Vanity, know you no bounds?! Don’t tell anyone this, but I found myself at the computer, looking through photo after photo (No, my ears look too big. No, I have bags under my eyes. No, I really should be wearing pants).
What to do? I notice that little eye staring at me from the top of my laptop – webcam! Alas, can’t figure out how to get it to work, so I must find refuge in, to quote Hamlet, words, words, words.
Before I became a teacher in 1993, I worked in New Canaan for a marketing communications agency, writing press kits and collateral for high-tech startups. I could make the case that I wrote for a living, but it wasn’t until I changed careers to become an English teacher that I really learned how to write, that I discovered this thing called voice, and it changed my life. Seriously.
My seminal writing experience took place in the summer of 1998, when I had a fellowship to the summer institute of the Connecticut Writing Project. That month was a mixture of experiments in written forms that expanded the way I thought about writing and teaching, and focused research in writing assessment that changed my entire approach to instruction and made me the teacher I am today (if that doesn’t provide an opening for your slings and arrows, nothing will).
CWP-Fairfield, a chapter of the National Writing Project, is “dedicated to improving students’ writing by strengthening the teaching and learning of writing, providing professional development programs for classroom teachers and expanding the professional roles of teachers,” according to its website. In addition, it provides programs for young writers, with special outreach into urban communities. The New Canaan Public Schools is chock full of CWP alumni who have dedicated their summers to becoming better reading and writing teachers.
This year, the realities in Washington, the public demand for spending cuts, have resulted in a federal budget plan that does not contain funding for the NWP. I’m not enough of a policy wonk to tell you that you should write to Congress and tell government to invest our money here, as opposed to high speed rail. But as for me, and all the teacher-consultants who have completed the CWP Institute, we try to provide return on that investment, by using writing to teach critical thinking skills, and by trying to grow as people through our own writing.
So if you like this, if you like the NCHS writing scores on high-stakes tests, if you like the writing performances you see from your sons and daughters, then you like the Connecticut Writing Project, whether you know it or not.
See you next week.