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Bread Loaf

posted: 7.19.12 by Andrea Lunsford

Recently I wrote about an encounter with a schools-and-teachers basher whose adamant statements were based on no information or evidence, or at least none I could detect.  I met this character on my way to visit the Bread Loaf Graduate School of English campus at the University of North Carolina, Asheville.  I’ve written about Bread Loaf before, the school associated with Middlebury College that has offered MA and MPhil degrees in English for over ninety years.  Its home campus sits atop Bread Loaf Mountain in Vermont, and together with sister campuses in Asheville, Santa Fe, and Lincoln College, Oxford, it attracts some 400 students every summer, almost all of them teachers on “summer vacation.”  Five summers of seven-week sessions taking three courses yields an MA.  For my money, Bread Loaf is the best teacher development program in the country:  distinguished faculty from across the country gather with  the students for an intense summer of writing, reading, and talking about language, literature, rhetoric—and most of all about students and learning.  In addition to coursework, most teachers there devote themselves to preparations of the coming school year.

In Asheville I talked with Marion, who is working to establish a writing center in her high school, and to Tasha, who has a new 12th grade IB course this coming year and is intent on expanding both the curriculum and the restrictive “Prescribed List of Readings.”  Alex showed me his plan for a cross-age tutoring program between 9th  and 11th graders at his school, and Jake and Janice spoke excitedly about an exchange their students (one in rural South Carolina, the other in New York) will be doing based on reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  Meanwhile, a group of eight to ten teachers told me about the units they are developing on digital storytelling for their students.  These conversations took place on a Sunday afternoon, when these teachers might well have been taking a little time off. But no, they were in the (beautiful) campus library, either reading and writing for their courses or working, as these teachers were, on plans for next year.  That evening I shared a light supper with them in the dining hall and then trekked over to the Glass House Readings, a weekly event featuring student performances.  On this evening, four student and faculty members played and sang some mountain music, with all of us joining in on the choruses before settling down to listen to readings—of an essay, a series of brief poems, and a biting and very funny short story.

So Bravo Bread Loaf and the hundreds of teachers who are spending this summer immersed in learning and teaching.  And Bravo to the students who will reap the rewards of their teachers’ work this next school year.


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