A February 2023, National Writing Project (NWP) podcast features artist Robert Shetterly, AWTT education director Connie Carter, and Richard Koch, founder of the Mindful Writing Workshop (MWW), as they speak with Tanya Baker, Director of Programs at the National Writing Project (NWP), about how to support young people to tell the truth and make a difference.
NWP is the nation’s largest network of teacher-leaders, K–university and across the curriculum, working together through local Writing Project sites to improve the teaching of writing and learning in schools and communities nationwide.
The three panelists discuss the following:
- What is one thing you know to be true?
- What is school for?
- The origins of the AWTT project and its educational components
- The inspiration for the AWTT’s Samantha Smith Challenge education program
- How teachers can become involved with AWTT or MWW
- Advice for teachers who may be reluctant to engage with this type of project-based or service-learning based curriculum
The session includes a discussion about the importance of creativity as a key to learning and thriving, as well as reflections on the importance of seeing human potential and fostering courage.
Shetterly shares the inspiration behind his most recent and very creative (yet to be unveiled) portrait of John Alston, Director of the Swarthmore-based Chester Children’s Chorus. (Listen to the Chorus sing “I Still Can’t Breathe.”)
Koch describes a classroom project with second graders in rural Allegheny County who wrote letters to people they didn’t know, asking hard questions about issues they cared about. Carter tells about Maine middle schoolers who, over time, became more and more invested in their Samantha Smith Challenge and moved beyond the motivation of getting a good grade to become truly invested in their project and its outcomes.
Koch advises teachers, “The mind will make us aware of the problems and the heart knows the answers. . . . And there will be a moment when courage is required.”
Shetterly recalls portrait subject Claudette Colvin, a girl who refused to give up her seat on the bus months before Rosa Parks staged her well-known protest, who felt Harriet Tubman’s and then Sojourner Truth’s hand on her shoulder as history glued her to her seat.
The panelists encourage teachers and students to use AWTT’s models of courage as inspiration – encouraging them to take the first steps towards making a difference and solving the problems they see.