Invitational Summer Institute
From its beginning in 1978, the Invitational Summer Institute (ISI) has served as the cornerstone of the NVWP’s professional development model. The NVWP now hosts Invitational Summer Institutes in three locations: one at George Mason University, one in the Shenandoah Valley at John Handley High School, and one in Spotsylvania County. As many as twenty-five distinguished local teachers attend each intensive four-week institute. Participating teachers across all grade levels (Pre-K through University) and subject matters come from public and private schools throughout Northern Virginia.
View Video Highlights from the 2012 Invitational Summer Institute
The Heart of the NVWP
In its thirty-five year history, over 900 teachers have completed the NVWP Invitational Summer Institute (ISI). During each ISI, teachers examine the most pressing issues related to the teaching and learning of writing across the curriculum. The ISI fellows demonstrate and reflect on their own best practices and strategies, and they study current research in the field. Fellows also develop their own writing lives through participation in writing workshops and writing response groups. Upon completion of the Institute, fellows earn the distinction of being Teacher Consultants. Teacher Consultants are the heart of the NVWP!
Becoming a Teacher Consultant for the NVWP
After completing the Invitational Summer Institute participating teachers gain the distinction of becoming Teacher Consultants for the Northern Virginia Writing Project. These dedicated teacher-leaders facilitate and provide professional development in schools throughout Northern Virginia and the surrounding area, maintain active writing lives, work to make the Writing Project model of professional development available to every teacher, and seek to enhance the learning of students at all grade levels and subject areas.
The Nomination and Interview Process
Teachers from all content areas and grade levels are invited to participate in the NVWP Invitational Summer Institute based on their expertise in the classroom and openness to new learning. To take part in the ISI, teachers must apply and receive at least two recommendation letters from fellow teachers, mentors, or administrators. After submitting their application materials, teachers participate in an interview with the Director of the NVWP and other site leaders.
During the Invitational Summer Institute, nationally recognized teacher leaders, NVWP teacher consultants, and participating fellows share demonstration lessons. A demonstration lesson is more than a presentation or a talk to teachers; a demonstration lesson makes visible to our peers what we do in our classes. As Jim Gray, founder of the National Writing Project, wrote in his memoir of the early years of the National Writing Project Teachers at the Center, “The most successful demonstrations communicate not only what the teacher does but also why the teacher thinks this particular practice works. The emphasis upon the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’ is important: it provides a theoretical underpinning and it accents a considered approach to writing beyond mere gimmickry” (143). This reflective approach to teaching, combined with the power of peer review, produces new knowledge for all participants and deepens our collective commitment to reflective practice. Longtime Writing Project Director Sheridan Blau explains, ”If I tell you my idea, you know only that I have it. If I want you to have my idea for yourself, you need to experience it for yourself and my task as your teacher is to construct a venue in which you are given an opportunity to have an experience that is likely to yield for you an idea similar to the one I would have you learn.” Many teachers report that the experiential learning they experience by participating in demonstration lessons provides them with new strategies for their teaching lives. Although the demonstrations come from teachers of particular grade levels and content areas, there are always ways of extending and applying new strategies to our own teaching circumstances. As one 2011 NVWP participant in the Shenandoah Valley Invitational Summer Institute wrote, ”I feel that I gained a better understanding of strategies to use with all students in all content areas because of the many demonstrations.”
Morning Pages and Writing Response Groups
One of the basic principles of the Writing Project is that to teach writing well, teachers of writing must write. The writing teacher’s authority must be grounded in their own personal experience as a writer who knows first-hand the struggles and satisfactions of the writer’s task. To this end, teachers write extensively throughout the ISI and provide helpful feedback on each other’s writing in small writing response groups which meet at least twice per week. Each morning of the Invitational Summer Institute begins with writing in the tradition of Julia Cameron’s morning pages.
For the second year in a row, the NVWP is offering three Summer Institutes; we will hold an ISI in June in Spotsylvania County and two concurrent Institutes in July, one at George Mason University in Fairfax and the other at John Handley High School in Winchester. The three institutes run on the same model. All teachers may choose their site of preference (although we anticipate teachers west of Loudoun and Fauquier counties will prefer to attend the John Handley High School site, and teachers east of Loudoun and Fauquier will prefer George Mason). Teachers should select whichever site is more convenient for them. (Please note the Winchester ISI is dependent upon a minimum number of participants signing up; so, if we don’t have that number teachers who apply for the Winchester ISI will have the option to attend at Mason.)
The ISI runs for four weeks in the summer, and fellows attend from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Thursday evening seminars run from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Every fellow will be required to attend one session on a Friday morning (9:00 am – 1:00 pm) during the week in which that fellow presents.
The NVWP will hold its second annual Invitational Summer Institute in Spotsylvania County from June 23 to July 19.
This year’s Invitational Summer Institutes at George Mason University and John Handley High School will take place from July 7th through August 1st.
Fellows earn six graduate credits in either English or Education (equivalent to 180 recertification points) from George Mason University.
The cost of six hours of graduate tuition at George Mason University is $2,000.00. Many schools and/or school districts pay full or partial tuition. Fellows receive a $500.00 stipend for books and travel expenses, paid at the end of the seminar.
Nominate a Teacher for the ISI
We invite all friends of the NVWP (administrators, parents, teacher consultants, and students) and to nominate excellent teachers of writing from grades pre-K to college for the Invitational Summer Institute. A qualified candidate should have at least three years of experience (exceptions are made for strong early career teachers) and demonstrate excellence in the classroom. An ideal candidate integrates a student-centered curriculum in their classroom and has a passion for learning and growth. Nominating a teacher does not obligate them in any way and is as easy as filling out this online form: Nominate a teacher for the Invitational Summer Institute.
NVWP ISI Application
To apply, you must send the following:
- Completed application form (online form available at link above)
- Letter of Intent: one-page letter describing your interest in the Summer Institute and ways you feel the ISI can benefit you. (You can attach this to your application form via the link above)
- Two Letters of Recommendation: one from a colleague and one from a supervisor. (These may be mailed separately from the rest of the application.)
While the Priority Application Deadline is April 10th, we will continue to receive applications until all spaces are filled.
Please mail the two letters of recommendation to:
Paul M. Rogers, Director
NVWP, 3E4 George Mason University
4400 University Dr.
Fairfax, VA 22030
For further information, please call 703-993-1168 or click here to contact us.
Applicants will be invited to interview on an afternoon in March or April at George Mason University after the application has been reviewed. Notification from the NVWP ISI Review Board will be sent in May.