A Year with Andover Bread Loaf

Sep 6th, 2013 | By | Category: BLTN Teachers, Fall 2013, Issue
—by Lou Bernieri
Director of Andover Bread Loaf
Browse Andover Bread Loaf’s interactive timeline. Hover over each slide for a description. 

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Andover Bread Loaf’s three summer workshops for teachers and students are the culmination of work done in the previous school year and the springboard for work that will be done in the new school year. This summer’s programs built on the tremendous momentum generated in 2012-2013, a result of the explosion of ABL’s reach in Lawrence, MA, and Springfield, MA. In this past school year a myriad of new school year programs were launched by ABL and its alumni, expanding ABL’s reach to thousands more students.

The three-week Lawrence Student Writers Workshop, held at Phillips Academy in July, offered an intensive arts and writing workshop to 85 middle and high school students and 30 Writing Leaders. The Slice program, held at the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, enrolled 30 elementary school students and 15 Writing Leaders.  The Andover Bread Loaf Writing Workshop for teachers included Massachusetts teachers from Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield; New York City, New Orleans, and Port-au-Prince; and Mpumalanga, South Africa.

In Lawrence, ABL offered in-service professional development programs for the staff of the Robert Frost Elementary and Middle Schools (900 students) and the Lawrence Family Development Charter Elementary (300 students). In Springfield, ABL offered professional development programs for German Gerena Elementary School (800 students) and South End Middle School (400 students). In addition to the professional development, ABL offered demonstration workshops for 400 Gerena students, 400 South End Middle students, and 200 Frost students. These programs proved so successful that ABL will add four to five more schools in Lawrence and Springfield in 2013-2014.

Lawrence continues to be the main site for ABL’s work, the place where programs are developed in the schools and community organizations. Twelve different ABL after-school programs ran in Lawrence during the school year, serving hundreds of k-12 students. In addition, ABL offered its usual three city-wide Saturday writing conferences, attracting almost 300 youth in total. ABL also organized Lawrence High School’s Day of Poetry, where over 800 students participated in workshops given by eight different poets during the school day, culminating in an open mic at the end of the day that drew over 400 students.

ABL’s outreach to parents and families expanded dramatically in Lawrence, as six Family Literacy Nights drew over 1,000 total. While most schools complain about how difficult it is to get parents into the schools, the schools that offered Family Literacy nights could hardly find enough room to accommodate the crowds that attended. Along with Family Literacy Nights, ABL collaborated with Lawrence Communityworks to offer a pilot of Community Education Circles (CEC), a program where a small group of teachers, students, and families gather for a series of five meals throughout the year in a home in Lawrence to talk about education in the city. The success of the pilot CECs has paved the way for expanding the program to four or five more CECs in 2013-2014.

The fall opening of El Taller, a café/bookstore in Lawrence and a product of ABL’s Lawrence network,  gave ABL an additional site in the city to offer workshops, programs, writing and arts events, and other educational ventures. El Taller programming has filled quickly and has included public readings by famous writers such as Martín Espada and Ernesto Quiñones.  The youth writing movement ABL has spurred in Lawrence was in full bloom during the proliferation of open mics at El Taller, many of which drew over 150 youth to read and listen to poetry and song.

ABL alumni in Springfield and Lowell took ABL models created in Lawrence and adapted them for their cities. In Springfield, South End Middle School, the school with the poorest demographics in the state, held a week-long poetry festival that culminated in an evening slam and open mic attended by over 200 students and parents. In Lowell, ABL alumni ran a Slice program for 25 elementary school students during the winter vacation.

The backbone of almost all Andover Bread Loaf work is the ABL Writing Leader program, another ABL initiative that exploded this year and summer. Writing leaders are trained as teachers and workshop facilitators in the summer workshops, where they are responsible for mentoring groups of younger students. In August 2012, two leaders traveled to Mumbai, India, for three weeks to assist an ABL teacher in her classroom. In November, a leader went to New Orleans to help run a workshop there. Last year, in addition to their work in the ABL summer programs, leaders ran six different programs in Lawrence and assisted teachers in six more. In July, several writing leaders traveled to the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont to present and discuss their work with graduate students and professors. In August, they taught two classes to graduate students at Merrimack College. Although the Writing Leader program is not a college retention program per se, in the 26 years of its existence, every leader in the program we have tracked has graduated from college, an astonishing statistic given their demographic.

ABL Writing Leaders share insights with Bread Loaf M.A. students and faculty

ABL Writing Leaders share insights with Bread Loaf M.A. students and faculty

ABL’s work in 2013-2014 has already begun this August, as at least four more schools in Lawrence and Springfield have asked for ABL professional development along with the schools from last year.  This means reaching thousands more students in these cities.

Finally, eight ABL  alumni from Lawrence, New York City, New Orleans, Port-au-Prince, and Nairobi attended the Bread Loaf School of English, seven in the Master’s of English program and one on the Master of Letters program. In August 2013, three earned their MA degrees and one his M.Litt.

Read more about Andover Bread Loaf on its Phillips Academy web page, or visit its Facebook page, Voices of ABL.

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