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The Northern California Writing Project is a professional development organization devoted to improving the teaching of writing in our service region.

September 2022
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Author: Sarah Pape

Inquiry by Julia Murphy

Inquiry by Julia Murphy

In the Summer Institute and throughout the year, Northern California Writing Project teacher consultants are invited to engage with in-depth writing prompts in generative groups. We believe classrooms hold the world inside of them, and teachers witness the impact of family systems, larger culture, local communities, political debate, and public health, alongside their own lives. Dispatches is a place where we explore these intersections and tangles, joys and impossibilities, with the aim to honor our educators and those they teach.


How do I separate the idea or practice of teaching from the feelings of teaching?
What is the place of feelings in teaching?
What is the place of feelings in learning?
Why does high school feel so bad (to me?)
Does high school empirically feel bad?
Who thrives in high school?

What do youngs want?
What do they NOT want?
Is desire incompatible with reality?
Which reality?

Where is the best place to ask questions?
Is it safe to ask questions in school?
Is it safe to be wrong in school?
For whom is it safe to ask questions/ be wrong in school?

What do we not know, that we need to know?
What did we know once, but have forgotten?
Do we need to learn, or just remember?
Is there a space for remembering?
How far back does remembering go?

How do we become whole people?

  1. In everything worth doing, there is a sacredness.

What do I say to students watching a TikTok of Russian bombs exploding in Ukraine?
What do I say to students on their phone with their mother, evacuating as propane tanks blow up like bombs, in a town engulfed in flames?
What do I say to students who worry about the future?
What do I say to students who worry?
What do I say to students?
What do I say
What do
?

Where is the place that feels safe?
Is it with each other?

How do we know when we are loved?
Is tough love really love?
Is all love tough; but at the same time, kind?
Can we be tough and kind?
Where/when do we need to be tough?
Do we need to be tough?

Who are we when we let our guard down?
What is our guard guarding?
Who is our guard?

Is the scorn we feel from other people real?
Is this where our shame comes from?

Where does our shame come from?

Why do I think of high school and shame in the same thought?

Is it all the nightmares of being naked in school?
Why does the body carry shame?
How does the body carry shame over to our minds?
How is shame used to motivate people?
How is shame used to motivate people in school?
Is shame necessary, to learn how to be a person?
What place does shame have in our culture?

NOTE: “Our culture” being middle class white culture
Because education is middle class white culture
Because acknowledging white privilege might induce shame
And that kind of shame is unacceptable
The kind that comes with making a mistake
Because education doesn’t make mistakes
Because data-driven and standards-based is objective reality
And education is now in the bright light of objective reality
And this latest (PBIS, Nurtured Heart, Race for the Top) is the best framework
The very best and latest in educational frameworks
And administrators don’t make mistakes
Although “lies, damned lies, and statistics”
But white middle class culture doesn’t make mistakes
Not mistaking a phone for a gun
Not a mistaken hail of bullets in a no-knock raid
Not mistaken systems of redlining and restrictive real estate covenants
Not mistakenly denying other people’s cultures experiences reality humanity

Not mistakenly denying other people’s cultures experiences reality humanity.

  2. In everything worth doing, there is an impossible ideal.

How do I be a person who matters
When a swastika shows up on class materials
And I wish someone important would come make a statement to my class,
But all I have is myself—
Is that enough?

Why is every tardy punished with a detention
When a swastika blossoms like a tumor and is dealt with in secret,
With no resolution,
As though hate has ever done anything but flourish in secrecy?
As though the greater crime is not being on time?

Why does my mind go from crime to punishment?
What did that ever change?
Witness:
Swastikas, still.

What are we missing?

What do we not know, that we need to know?
What did we know once, but have forgotten?
…Is shame necessary, to learn how to be a person?
What place does shame have in our culture?

How do shame, mistakes, punishment, and white culture play out in school?
When does a mistake become a crime?

Is school safe for people from different cultures?
Where is a safe place for people from different cultures?
Is safety an illusion?
Why are we so scared?
How does this fear affect us in our bodies?
In our lived experience?

NOTE: There are different levels of real and present threat.
White culture’s imagined threats are given precedence over other cultures’ real threats.

NOTE: Poor white (people) may be part of white culture’s imagined threats.

Are white people imagining a time when white culture is not dominant, and that is where the fear is?
The imagined threat?

How does this relate to education?
How does this relate to making a mistake?
How does this relate to our guard, and what it’s guarding?
Who is the “us” I refer to?

middle class white Us
I cannot not belong here

I do know (believe) that there is a place for each of us; and by that us, I mean US, all of us.
I do know (believe) that I want safety for everyone, a place to just be.

Where is a place to just be?
Our place?
My place?
Are they different places?

    3. In everything worth doing, we find ourselves and our place in the world.

How do we come to the idea of work?
What is my work?
Is my job getting in the way of my work?
What am I doing when I’m not making a living?
If we say that “time is money,” how does that diminish time?

Why do we make distinctions between work-life and life-life?
Why do we have guards, or different people, for our different lives?
What are we protecting?
Who are we protecting it from?

Does the “we” determines the “what” (we protect)?

Who is safe right now?
What is safety?

Is it time to invite these questions into our practice and relations?

Our practice= our work, if not our job.
Our relations= how each of us individually identifies, in relation to the collective.
The everything.

Teachers:
How much of the everything must we know?

What is knowing?
How is knowing different from feeling?
Can we have legitimacy from a place of feeling, or does it need to be knowing to be legitimate?

What is legitimacy?
Who decides?
Is it the same as authority?
How does legitimacy relate to experience?
How does legitimacy relate to being right?

NOTE: Teachers like to be right.
Teachers put importance on being right.
Teachers like to be sure they are right.

How can teachers be sure they are right?
How does it affect students, if teachers are always (sure they are) right?

  4. In everything worth doing, we begin by doing it wrong.

And do it again,
And learn
—And find the possible

Is dominant white middle class culture product-based, or process-based?
Are we teaching for products, or processes?
Are we teaching to be right, or for liberation?
Are we teaching gently, creatively, organically?
(Not always)
Are we teaching with joy and solidarity?
(Not always)

Is it possible?

I know (believe) that it is,
Or that it could be,
—by moving bravely towards the impossible

Can we build a bridge to the impossible out of questions?

Am I ready to start building this bridge
Not knowing where it will take me

Certain that I will leave the world before it is done,
But also certain that its building is my life’s work?

Look. I have begun.

And:
will you build with me?


Julia Murphy is an artist, educator, and regular person. She lives in Chico, CA. www.pedalpress.org 









Meet the NCWP 2022 Summer Institute Fellows!

Meet the NCWP 2022 Summer Institute Fellows!

We are excited to introduce the invited fellows for the NCWP Summer Institute! This summer, we are offering our Summer Institute in a new, extended format to allow for deeper engagement and community support as we navigate exciting and challenging ideas together. Please welcome the new cohort to the network of National Writing Project teachers! We are so excited to bring this group together to think about the teaching of writing through conversations about equity, anti-racist approaches to course design, and ways to create dynamic communities in education.


Grace Adcock has been teaching for over a decade. She is currently an English teacher and instructional coach at Shasta High School in Redding, CA. After being raised in the north state and attending Shasta College she completed a B.A. in Human Communication with a minor in Outdoor Recreation and Education at CSU Monterey Bay. She then traveled the world for a year and went back to school to obtain her Masters Degree in Education along with her Single Subject English, Multiple Subject, and Mild/Moderate Special Education credentials from CSU Chico.  She taught Special Education in Juvenile Detention Facilities and E.D. programs in the Bay Area at the start of her career before moving back to Redding where she lives with her daughter and husband. Teaching is her major passion in life and she hopes to instill a love for seeking adventure, learning, and being a member of a compassionate community in her students. When not in the classroom, she fills her time with traveling,  outdoor recreation, and baseball. She has lofty goals to visit all 7 contents (6 down, 1 to go!), attend a game at all 30 MLB parks (one-third complete), and visit a new national park every year. 


Joseph Hill teaches English and Video Games as Literature at the Inspire School of Arts and Sciences.  Before taking the plunge into teaching, Joseph worked for 6 years as a bartender in both Davis and Chico.  In Chico, he worked at both The Handlebar and The Winchester Goose (which is now sadly defunct).  Originally from a one stoplight town in East Texas, he spent some time in Austin before moving to Davis, California with his partner.  In Davis, he received a masters degree in English Literature with a creative writing focus.  After his partner received a job offer at Chico State, Joseph came to Chico.  He has taught at Inspire for the last three years, and began his teaching career in the middle of the pandemic. He is particularly interested in the gamification of education and using video games as another(alternate) mode of literacy.  He is excited to learn and grow as an educator.   At Inspire, he serves as the Advisory coordinator and is also a member of the Equity team.  He also advises the Gay/Straight Alliance and the Film Appreciation Club.


Jania Johnson graduated from Chico State with a Bachelors in English in 2017 where she was named the Outstanding Bachelors of English for her graduating year. In 2018, she completed her residency in the 12-month RiSE program where she also earned her Masters in Education.  She has been at Oroville High School for five years: one year as a student teacher and four years independently in the classroom. Jania teaches English 10, English 10 Honors, and AP Language and Composition. For the upcoming school year she will also begin teaching ELD. She has a passion for rhetoric and composition and loves to unpack the power of language with her students. When not in the classroom, she enjoys reading (duh!), hiking, and folding pajamas with humans still inside (a.k.a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). 


Cristy Kidd is a Bay Area native, now living and teaching in Redding, CA. She teaches Communication Studies at Shasta College and, starting in the fall, will be teaching at SCOE’s Independent Study program. She has an inherent inability to grasp the concept of “finishing” school, herself, and, as a result, has a B.A. in Communication, a M.A. in Mass Communication and Public Relations — both from University of the Pacific–and a M.Ed. with an emphasis in ELL Education from National University. Cristy spent two years as part of a cohort exploring effective teaching practices through the Association of University and College Educators, has been certified in ERWC curriculum and, now, is absolutely delighted to be a part of the Northern California Writing Project’s Summer Institute for the second time. Prior to teaching, Cristy worked in marketing and public relations, which she was successful at, but also miserable doing. Enter: education. Outside of school-life, Cristy is an avid reader, has been dancing since she was two, loves to bake, plays Dungeons & Dragons at least once a week, and lives for live music. She is married and the “mom” to two fur-babies. (And, yes, she does sleep, but she also lives for coffee).


Ashley Martinez is from the Los Angeles area and graduated from Chico State with a B.A. in English Education, minor in Organizational Communication, and a teaching credential. Currently, she teaches 8th grade Language (Writing) in Marysville Joint Unified. She has taught for 10 years, all in middle school and wouldn’t have it any other way. She started a Drama program and Literacy Committee at her school, in addition to being a new teacher mentor. When not working, she enjoys watching t.v., eating good food, and spending time with her husband and two sons. Ashley strives to provide her students with opportunities to think and write critically, while providing the best practices for instruction.


Zack O’Neill has a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara (2000), a Master’s in English from Sacramento State University (2008), and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of South Carolina (2011). He has writing fellowships from the University of South Carolina (2008) and the University of Houston (2012), and has published a short story collection and novella at a small press in New York City (2017 and 2019). His website comphaunt.com has regular updates with stories about education, blog posts, and teaching materials instructors can use.


Dana Paz received her BA in Social Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. She lived and worked in her native Guatemala as a grant writer for international development projects for 12 years, writing grants in Spanish and English for large-scale projects in rural communities. She relocated back to California with her family and received her Masters in Education at Chico State in 2019. She is in her third year of teaching English Language Arts to 7th and 8th graders at CK Price Intermediate School in Orland, CA. As an immigrant from Guatemala who found academic success relatively late in life, Dana strives to build her students’ confidence in listening to their own voice and writing their own truths, sharing mentor texts from all walks of the wide world we live in. When she’s not teaching, writing or reading, Dana enjoys long bike rides, hiking, yoga and running. She’s also learning piano so she can jam with her 15 year-old son and her husband, who play the drums and guitar (respectively). 


Hillary Pierce teaches sixth grade at Chico Country Day Charter School. She is a recent transplant to Chico due to her spouse’s work in agriculture. Hillary grew up in Santa Cruz, went to high school in Italy, and after graduating from UC Berkeley in 2005, spent most of her adult life in New Mexico following a fateful long-distance bike tour to the area. Hillary enjoys the sense of community and endless variety of life in the classroom, and also seeks learning opportunities in a broader context. She has taught in kitchens, science and history museums, gardens, and wildlands. She is currently busy amassing and muddling through more books than are possible to read in a single human lifetime and/or poking around in the forest hoping to identify wild culinary mushrooms.


Denai Rubio is a Fourth grade teacher in Chico CA at a K-8 school.  She got her multi-subject teaching credential at Chico State in 2020, 15 years after she first graduated from Chico State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography.  She went back to school to get her teaching credential after spending time helping in her children’s classroom and realizing that she loved teaching. When she is not in the classroom you can find her spending time outdoors with her family.  She loves camping, backpacking and traveling.  She hopes to pass along her love of reading and writing to her students and is excited to be a part of The Northern California Writing Project. 


Marta Shaffer is a third-year English teacher at Oroville High School. She graduated from Chico State University with her BA in 2015, and her MA in English – Creative Writing in 2018. She worked as a first-year composition instructor at Chico State during and after her grad program. She quickly realized her strengths as a teacher lied (lay?) in celebrating students’ birthdays and giving them band-aids, rather than knowing how to properly use “lie” and “lay,” so she decided to pursue her single-subject teaching credential in the fall of 2018. She strives to create an antiracist, decolonized classroom where each student can see themself represented in the curriculum. At home, she enjoys watching Rick and Morty with her partner and their dog, cross-stitching, gardening, and laying (lying?) in her hammock. 


Kendall M. Smith is a high school English teacher at Willows High School. She was awarded Teacher of the Year in April 2022. She serves as the Varsity Girls Tennis coach, faculty support for the GEAR UP Program, an advisor for the Interact Club, co-advisor for the Junior Class, and is currently writing the curriculum pathway for Ethnic Studies. She completed her Master’s in Education with an option in Curriculum and Instruction through the Residency in Secondary Education (RiSE) Program at Chico State in 2017. Prior to that, she was an English tutor for Burmese refugees in Chiang Mai while studying abroad in Thailand as a Gilman International Scholarship recipient. The travel bug has since then inspired her adventures throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. During the summer she teaches for the Upward Bound Program at California State University, Chico where she helps students write personal statements for college admission. In her spare time, she enjoys plotting her next adventure, trail running, paddle boarding with her husband, kickboxing with friends, and studying Vedic meditation with some yoga in between.


Jera Verboom teaches English and ELD at Orland High School. She is the GATE advisor and a member of the EL Task Force and SEL Team. She is finishing her third year teaching in the U.S. and has also taught abroad in Tanzania, Egypt, and India. Jera holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a focus in international relations from California State University, Chico, and earned her single subject teaching credential and a master’s degree in education through Chico State’s RiSE program in 2019. She is a proponent of culturally relevant classroom libraries and the purposeful allocation of time for independent reading and journaling. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and animals (dogs and horses), reading, and traveling.