Last year, I made a change from fourth grade teacher to the role of reading specialist. Every single day was a change in shifting from teaching/facilitating to coaching/facilitating. I made many fumbles and stumbles along the way. I reflected. Nothing killed me, so I got up, day after day, and confronted my new role head on. I was not the same educator at the end of the year that I was in the previous August. I changed...pedagogically, personally, and professionally. As I look back, I improved. I didn't become perfect, but I reflected and tried in earnest to learn from my mistakes. I changed.
Over the summer break, I researched, planned, wrote, prepared supplies, and presented two workshops. I read professional books about how students learn to read and how reading instruction "should" look in the 21st century classroom. I've spent hours reading fellow educators' blogs. I've participated in many Twitter-related education PLNs. I've had private discussions with educators all over the world. As a result, I've changed. Here are a few of the shifts in thinking and/or reaffirmations;
1. It's more effective and personable to say it in person than in an email.
2. Assume the best in everyone. When folks know better, they do better.
3. When presenting PD, do it in such a manner that is as enjoyable as possible. One comment I read on a fellow educator's blog is, "Today's PD was as close to death by Power Point that it could get."
4. Take time to listen to people...students and adults alike. Listen to understand; don't listen just to respond.
5. We are better together. It's crucial that educators have time to collaborate. Share what worked, what didn't worked, a new book you found, an organization tip, a new blog, etc.
6. Avoid negative people and energy zappers. Don't be a negative person or an energy zapper. Be aware. One highly respected, nationally-recognized principal from Alabama says he just walks away when the negativity begins.
7. Avoid conversations that are centered on the "bad" things that students do. Avoid conversations where "battle stories" are told as badges of honor about student behavior or work.
8. If I were teaching this year, I would not assign homework unless it was mandated by my principal or district. (Lots of thoughts and inconclusive research on this one.)
9. I've been so focused on reading levels that I may have stifled the "love of reading" in students all these years. I know levels are crucial, but when I teach again, I will allow more self selected reading no matter the level.
10. Technology should not drive the lesson. The lesson should drive technology. Technology isn't always necessary, but it sure can make things easier.
11. Be wary of programs. If the BEST program existed, we wouldn't have strugglers. Confront issues with solid instructional practices.
This list is incomplete. There are so many other facets to changes that I have made this summer. Some I'm still contemplating. There are these things that I know that are just as true today as they were the day I started teaching third grade almost 20 years ago:
Teachers should read high quality material to students each day. We need to hook our students. We need to hook their senses of wonderment, compassion, disbelief, emotion, and curiosity. Our students need to read with each other and by themselves every day the school bell rings. Independent reading is one of the most crucial things that needs to happen at school. Students need to engage in meaningful writing activities across the day. Students need to encounter math through real-life experiences and games. Science should be taught hand-on as much as possible and related to real-life and literature. The learning of Social Studies/History, in my opinion, is a civil right. We need to teach it with as much fervor as we do anything else. Luckily for us, there are tons of books to help us do that.
Thank you for reading my musings. They're not the Gospel. They are my thoughts.