At Ella Risk we are fortunate to have a well-established relationship with the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at Rhode Island College. Over the past few years, we’ve begun to build a mutually beneficial partnership for both our CF students and staff as well as the RIC students and faculty. Eight RIC professors have taught courses at Ella Risk (literacy, special ed-general ed, technology, science, etc.); practicum experiences and student teaching happen here; and teachers have the opportunity to participate in multi-layered professional development— from lesson study, expert demonstrations and coaching & mentoring…to stand-alone seminars and a full-faculty text study.

One of our big initiatives has been around the teaching of writing—the art, the craft and the research—with Dr. Martha Horn from RIC’s Department of Elementary Education facilitating this exciting work. Though Martha is steeped in the research and practice of folks like Don Graves, Peter Johnston and Lucy Caulkins, she asks teachers to begin where they are and challenges them to reflect deeply about their pedagogy and the learning environment they create. Martha’s approach looks at children in a way that honors what they have to teach us and truly gives voice to their stories.

The power of our collaboration has changed paradigms. Students see writing as something to look forward to and realize they are authors who write with purpose for wide audiences. Teachers feel inspired to elicit the best possible writing from their students and see individual conferring time as invaluable. Though writing is the vehicle for conversation and reflection, Martha has taught us that the writing environment and process is so much more about exemplary learning and teaching as a whole. This work continues to be a journey—one that’s differentiated by our individual levels of confidence and competence—but a journey that we are taking together and one that we see important.

We are poised to expand the CF-RIC partnership at Ella Risk: bringing in other Rhode Island College professors, inviting additional MAT students and offering a broad range of professional development and leadership opportunities. Planning will soon begin on summer institutes that will focus on topics including ‘Teacher as Writer’ and ‘The Teaching of Writing’, and our intention is to open these institutes to faculty from other buildings.