Teachers’ pens hit paper as Summer Writing Institute begins

Instructor Edward Wilson uses a nursery rhyme to explain the basics of writing at the Summer Writing Institute. (Houston Independent School District)

Instructor Edward Wilson uses a nursery rhyme to explain the basics of writing at the Summer Writing Institute.

Even though classes for students ended last Thursday, some teachers were on the other side of the desk this week as they began work on their own lessons during Houston ISD’s Summer Writing Institute.

More than 230 educators began learning the ins-and-outs of writing, including assessment, instruction, development and theory in one of the four 12-day training sessions this summer. The Institute is the first of its kind for the district as it continues its effort to increase teacher development.

Teachers throughout grade levels are part of the groups learning this summer, allowing them to better understand what students should know at each grade level, said Edward Wilson, co-director of Abydos Learning, the group teaching the Summer Writing Institute. In turn this allows them to focus more on what they should be teaching rather than being concerned if a student understands the latest curriculum.

“That’s where we sometimes misspeak with kids,” he said. “We think we have to tell them what they know instead of getting them to discover what they know… As long as students are reading and writing, they’re going to get better cognitively.”

After completing the Summer Writing Institute, some teachers may continue training to become instructors who will take their lessons back to their home campuses, Wilson said.

“They know their kids, they know their community,” Wilson said. “Better that they help their colleagues make those adjustments, those strategies, those activities that are going to give kids a strong foundation in literacy.”

During the opening hours of the Institute, Wilson shared a story of one of his students who was determined to have a poem he’d written be published in the New York Times. His point was to show how students may find a unique outlet that would welcome a teacher’s knowledge in an unexpected way. Wilson said he was able to teach that student the finer points of poetry writing while fine-tuning his poem.

“If kids master the narrative, the genre opens to them,” he said. “The narrative is that indigenous to who we are.”