Summer Writing Institute for Teachers (SWIFT)

Monday, July 22, 2019 - 12:30

Since summer 2014 the Maynooth University Writing Centre has run a Summer Writing Institute For Teachers (SWIFT).  These week-long events, modelled on the US National Writing Project bring teachers across the education levels, early childhood through to higher education, together to discuss how they write as teachers and how they help their students to develop as writers.  On Thursday 11th July 2019 we hosted a SWIFT reunion for past participants, approximately 40 of whom turned up to meet, share practice and talk about what SWIFT has meant. 
From previous feedback that we have gathered from SWIFT Fellows the impact of this initiative has been phenomenal: colleagues have pursued further study (masters and doctorates); they have engaged in self-sponsored writing including blogging, writing poetry, short story writing, novel writing; they have done amazing things in terms of writing in their schools - writing groups, publications, spoken word competitions, writing and performing dramas nationally, the development of a wide range of innovative pedagogies; they have bid for and secured European funding; they have contributed to the Professional Masters in Education programme in Maynooth University; they have become placement tutors and teacher educators and leaders; they have connected with universities in the US and attended writing institutes there; they have worked with community groups and supported writing in those setting.  Without exception the colleagues who attended the reunion said that being part of SWIFT was integral to all of these activities and achievements.
Practically, at the reunion colleagues had the opportunity to reflect on the academic year(s), reconnect with each other, and revisit successful pedagogies that they have been using.  In addition, the group were treated to the insights of two successful professional writers, journalist Cliona Foley and fiction/other writer John Mc Kenna.  In two semi-structured ‘How I write’ conversations both writers shared their writing strategies and their writerly dispositions.
The day finished all too soon with the seeds of ‘what next’ for SWIFT  … we look forward to the next episode.
SWIFT organisers, Dr Alison Farrell (Maynooth University) and Dr Deirdre McClay (Letterkenny Institute of Technology), recorded their thanks to the participants, the professional writers, to colleagues from the University Writing Centre, the Centre for Teaching and Learning and the Office of the Dean of Teaching and Learning for their support without which the event couldn’t have happened.