Fairfield University's Connecticut Writing Project hosts symposium that considers urban/suburban gap - October 19


The Connecticut Writing Project - Fairfield (CWP), which is housed in Fairfield University's Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, will host an on-campus symposium on culture and identity Friday, Oct. 19. The event, the second of its kind for CWP, is part of its ongoing mission to best serve both urban and suburban teachers and students. Approximately 60 local teachers and a dozen high school students are expected to attend "Closing Gaps & Opening Doors: Continuing Conversations on Identity, Culture & Race in Our Schools."

CWP Director Faye Gage said the symposia are a natural outgrowth of CWP's services. CWP, an affiliate of the National Writing Project, is dedicated to improving students' writing by strengthening both the teaching and learning of writing and by offering professional development programs for classroom teachers.

"In the beginning we looked at ourselves as serving suburban schools. They were the ones who knew about us. They were the ones that had the funding," Gage said. "But in the past three years we've been looking at the mission of the Project and we decided we didn't want to be myopic. We began to change our direction."

Though the CWP still works with many suburban districts, it has sought federal funding and added several key urban areas, creating workshops and in-service programs for teachers and students in Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford and Danbury. Gage also works to bring more urban teachers to its annual summer institutes.

Working in an array of schools, CWP leaders saw firsthand the vast divide between urban and suburban schools and the way students are taught and learn, based in large part, on their different cultures, race and circumstances. Talking about these issues seemed the next logical step.

"Our goal is to make students more literate by considering how race, class and culture contribute to a person's use of language," says Gage. The purpose of the symposium is "to open up conversation" concerning the effects of culture, race and circumstance on education, for teachers and students.

In May, CWP held its first "Closing Gaps" symposium for teachers. This second symposium, which will also include a small group of students, features a morning discussion of identity and community with Denise Patmon, associate professor and chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. During the afternoon, students from Stratford, Bridgeport, and Greenwich will take part in a panel discussion. Throughout the day, participants will be encouraged to consider how they see themselves - in terms of race, religion, socioeconomics and other factors - and how that impacts on the way they interact with others.

The Connecticut Writing Project - Fairfield is an affiliate of the National Writing Project, and has trained over 250 teachers from kindergarten through college. CWP shares with other Writing Project programs, the Carnegie Corporation of New York's commendation as the "best large-scale effort to improve composition instruction now in operation in this country." Its programs include speakers on reading, writing, and learning issues, Institutes for Urban Teachers, Young Writers Institutes and Writers Retreats.

A CWP conference is planned for mid-November. Jeff Wilhelm, author of "Reading Don't Fix No Chevys" will be the keynote speaker.

For more information, please call (203) 254-4000 ext. 3124 or visit www.cwpfairfield.org.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 15, 2007

Vol. 40, No. 78