on inquiry, choice, and learning to write in schools: my post in The Atlantic

I was fortunate to be able to contribute to The Atlantic’s discussion on young people writing in schools. Peg Tyre features New Dorp High School’s efforts, and a number of people responded to it. Here is a link to my post.

Briefly, here are the principles I saw at play at New Dorp based on Tyre’s account.

  1. New Dorp considered its school as a place where teachers learn too.
  2. New Dorp brought in outsiders — not to tell their own faculty what to do, but rather to provide a perspective to help them think though their own needs.
  3. New Dorp applied these lessons across its classrooms, approaching writing not as a stand-alone subject but as an important tool for getting work done in all disciplines.
  4. New Dorp teachers taught writing as a way to not only demonstrate ideas, but also as a way to discover them.
  5. New Dorp teachers do not seem to focus on explicit parts of speech as much as making rhetorical choices visible.
  6. New Dorp’s story is not over, and the school will continue to learn more about its students and its pedagogy.

I end by writing “that New Dorp’s success is rooted in the principles I’ve outlined above, which seem to me to be about processes that empower. The school has shown that it values its teachers, and that it sees writing as a way people circulate ideas across disciplines. It is approaching writing as a way to discover ideas and conceptual relationships. And it has created a culture of inquiry and choice, for students as well as for teachers, which means that the learning will never be quite over. That’s an important lesson for others and a hopeful path for the New Dorp community.”