While I haven’t posted in my long off-again-on-again blog in some time, this seemed good inspiration for chronicling a journey.
Last week, I entered a reading group focused on the work of the late English teaching giant James Moffett with a bunch of National Writing Project colleagues. When I first heard the group was being created I immediately jumped in and couldn’t wait to get started.
Moffett is one of those foundational figures of the early Writing Project. It took me years to glean just how significant his contributions have been to the field of K-12 English teaching. At first, he was just a name that wasn’t mentioned on the mouths of experienced NWP folks. As often is the case, my interest piqued, I started to dig and read a little.
Over time I came to realize just how much of my own thinking about teaching English and his overlapped. It has always felt like the more I read his work the more I nod and think to myself, “Why don’t more people I know and work with realize some of this stuff?” Although to be fair, that is, in part, what has always drawn me back to the writing project. It is always the people. Even opening the virtual session to see the number of familiar faces was an emphatic affirmation.
A few years ago, I started a deeper dive into Moffett while working on a fellowship I was doing in writing instruction. However, a fair amount of his work has fallen out of print and combined with the time it took to secure some of the books and the pressures of deadlines ultimately stalled the depth of the dive. I certainly was able to make use of some of it, but I finished the project feeling slightly unsatisfied with my exploration of Moffett.
In the interim, I picked up some of those hard to find volumes but haven’t had the time to dedicate to them as I would like. Despite my desire to know more, I sometimes need a push to restart the kind of in-depth study that I had hoped. This group looks like just the motivation I needed to reopen the exploration. Already it has been an invitation to that deeper dive I started but went unfinished a few years ago.
Even before the first meeting, I began pouring over the selection of articles for the second session. My curiosity and desire reignited almost instantly.
Best of all, this opportunity already feels even better. Reading and discussing the work in a community of like-minded individuals with an array of deeper knowledge and experience with Moffett and his works is a boon that can only eclipse any individual passion project of my own. There are even members of the group who knew the man personally and worked with him some capacity while he was alive, which is all the more exciting.