Our fellows began the day by writing (I won’t mention the evidently cruel pre-Workshop activity I foisted on them just to find their seats: they weren’t happy). After sharing the writing that started the day they hit the computer lab, to participate in a flipped tag-team Demonstration on website design. With a transition that lasted only long enough to introduce the writing workshop group process and to the writing group members they’ll spend hours with over the next several weeks, fellows spent a full hour workshopping the poems they’re writing before the Summer Institute begins. These groups flowed naturally into the pre-Summer Institute book groups that gave fellows a taste of the reading workshop time that will be a regular part of their daily life this summer and reinforced the see-yourself-as-a-writer message that will help them see themselves as ever-more confident teachers of writing as we move through the summer.
Lunch interrupted reading workshop groups. It might seem that lunch would provide a break, but filling the plates of twenty-five people (because the mentors joined us right on time, after all) in less than thirty minutes is hectic enough, and giving just enough space (physical and temporal) for mentors and fellows to chat – and in some cases meet – devoured whatever might have been left over.
The Writing Project believes that an army marches on its stomach, so after lunch the real work began. Small groups pored over student samples fellows brought in, with a rigid protocol driving our interaction, talking together to think through teaching practices, assignment and assessment questions, writing processes, and Demonstration possibilities.
Mentors are an invaluable part of this process, and as group members talk, fellows and their mentors write furiously, capturing thoughts and making plans. Mentors have experience; they know Demos. We ask them to stay in regular contact with fellows as they leave the Introductory Workshop and wait for the Summer Institute to begin. In the role of mentor, they’ll serve as sounding boards. They’ll translate the wealth of information fellows are provided. They’ll field questions and test out ideas and calm rough waters. Because, like I said, we throw the fellows in. But we know they can swim. Today, they start to prove it to themselves.