Vassar with Tara: #Slice of Life Tuesdays

I have a new image to add to my collection of images, representing moments with Tara Smith.

It was a glorious Saturday morning as Tara arrived before 7 and I was just racing out after a gulp of OJ. No coffee yet, but in minutes, after filling the gas tank we filled up on caffeine as well.  Little did I realize that as I put down my packages to add milk and sugar, I would be leaving behind my phone.

We were off and I knew that Tara was nervous, that it was her maiden voyage as a workshop presenter.  She would be great, no question, but thanks to my many years with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, I had been well schooled and experienced in the ways of a workshop presenter.  So with a solid Keynote, a la Apple we were in great shape.

It was new territory for all of us.  For years, the HVWP offers Saturday Seminars throughout the year on the SUNY campus in New Paltz, but this year, breaking with tradition we have partnered with Vassar College for some of our Saturday events.

I have been to Vassar but now we had to find Ely Hall and get used to a new space.  Vassar is a Mac campus, YES! and a very sweet techie was waiting for us to get me online. He would be back at the end of the Keynote to hook me up.


Tara has been getting a taste of what the National Writing Project offers, how it’s different from Teacher’s College and hey why not grow with both.  One of the great things about the NWP model is the hands-on experience offered during workshops.  We a challenged to get participants active and engaged with as little talking head time as possible.  The goal is something mutual is created between presenter and participant.  So of course after a bit of an explanation, a visit to Two Writing Teachers, slicing models shared from our recent slices and one from Elsie, we had everyone create their own, share it with a partner and then write a reflection about the experience.

And that was only half the workshop.  But keeping time was my challenge.  As we entered into the second half Tara was in her element, reliving her classroom experiences with the group.

In a shorter version of my video, teachers were asked to write about what they noticed and Tara kept notes to frame her conversation.  No one would imagine that this was a new experience for Tara.  She offered authentic insights and encouragement to teachers burdened with time constraints.

Yes, kids will find their writing voices and take ownership if you let them!

Sharing Student Slices was our last activity and one that supported and cemented the belief that


was worth the effort.

It was truly a glorious day.  My phone was safe and sound and waiting for me back at the Burger King where I left it and Tara and I are planning for year two of our collaboration.

I’m still grinning!!!!


9 thoughts

  1. Glorious day indeed, minus the snafu with leaving your phone. That event made me gasp in horror, as I’m sure you did. So glad you were able to get it back! So which one of my posts became a model? I am truly honored by this, since writing was never my forte. Absolutely love the picture of you and Tara at the top of the post. You two are a dynamic duo!

  2. Yay! It sounds like a great day was had by all especially with the safe cell phone recovery at the end. I intended to write a piece from my National Writing Project binder/ anthology to share today. I wanted to revise one I wrote during my month in 1997 at the Central Florida Writing Project, but I caught up in that mandated writing test practice today, so I wrote that up instead. I’ll have to get back to writing project joy tomorrow. Congratulations on a successful session–it sounds well planned, active and engaging.

  3. When did you discover the missing phone? You seemed to stay cool as a cucumber in spite of that loss. Glad you were able to retrieve it. I wish I could have popped in for some learning from you and Tara at your Sat. session.

  4. I love the cliff hanger of the misplaced phone that lingered around through this SOL. Calmly, as if it was lurking in the distance – a potential sad end to a glorious day – the phone seems to be a reminder that even the best of days has its snafus! I also love the way you can and do embrace not only the TC model but also the many other models of writing spurred by the work of the great writing gurus like Graves.

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