Each summer, a select group of twenty teachers gets a taste of what their students go through when they sit down to write. In daily writing sessions, participants in the Bay Area Writing Project's Summer Invitational Institute learn firsthand about the anguish of writer's block and the joy of a well-turned phrase. The goal of these sessions is to help teachers gain a greater understanding of the writing process so they can become better teachers of writing.
During the five-week institute, participants -- who are chosen for the innovative ways they use writing in their classrooms -- also work with staff to create workshops on their writing practices and philosophy. Topics range from alternative approaches to teaching grammar to incorporating science facts into fiction. After the institute, they join a network of about 500 project alumni who teach other teachers at workshops in area schools, conduct classroom research, and continue to hone their leadership abilities.
While the explicit goal of the project is to improve the teaching and learning of writing, alumni say the biggest benefits are an increased feeling of professionalism and the chance to be a part of a peer network. The success of the Bay Area Writing Project paved the way for the National Writing Project, which has spawned more than 150 similar endeavors throughout the United States.