The Kids are My Curriculum

Thursday, August 20, 2015

There I was, standing in front of 2 sessions of new teachers, giving an overview of reading workshop during New Teacher Week, but starting with an apology... 

     I apologized for the overwhelming information I was about to give.  Yes, I tried to make it general, and less daunting to our new staff who come with a range of experience.  I tried to think of the questions new staff would ask.  I put on my smiling face, and talked about the underlying principles of workshop and the resources we have and the things to consider at the beginning of the year.  But with each question asked, I somehow starting talking about common core, and Calkins, and formative assessment, and guided reading, and CAFE, and balanced literacy, and leveling systems, and workshop set up, and curriculum resources, and...

     The truth is, ALL teachers want to know what they are going to teach.  Sessions like that are necessary, because whether they are new or not, workshop model is an expectation and they need to explore it.  But, workshop and balanced literacy is NOT a script.  There is no one *right* way to do it.  There are guiding principles, but no clear recipe for success.  So, sometimes, when you talk about it, it actually creates more questions.

     And, maybe, that's ok.

     If teachers are questioning their practice, and looking to their kids for answers, they are probably going to teach better than if they just followed a script.  Even if at first things are a little rocky, the reflection and kid watching will smooth things out.  BUT... Sometimes we do need to follow something.  Experience builds with action, and with knowledge, and with time.  We need to fill our teaching toolbox before we can really look at the kids and know what to do next.  Programs and workshop overview can help do that.  But, it is up to the teacher to determine their path.

Case in point:

     That blog post was written about conferring and the other day I found it on Twitter.  Yes, conferring is on our puzzle pieces of balanced literacy and is an expectation.  But, after reading the blog post below, I started to think about what happens when something is taught because it is "an expectation."  I have seen it with my own eyes a lot as a literacy coach, and as a classroom teacher myself.   Decisions are made, and sometimes people jump to do them not because they understand the purpose or because they have adapted it to meet their students' needs, but because they have to, or their principal wants them to.  And often times, that isn't really the case.  And, things fall a little flat.

     But then, there are moments of brilliance.  Moments when teachers try something new, or adapt things to fit their own teaching style, and it resonates with both the teachers and the students.  Learning just starts oozing from the classroom and spills into the halls.  And people notice the great instruction and want to learn from that teacher, or even her students.  We begin to inspire each other.  And our students grow.  And we grow.

     Those moments of brilliance sometimes happen after we allow our selves time to develop as {both new and experienced} teachers.  

    So, I apologize to the new staff who might have wanted me to give them the one answer on how to teach workshop.  I really can't, because I don't know your kids.  Sitting in that room during New Teacher Week, your kids were still registering.  I can make assumptions and use my experience to generalize, but I want to meet them.  Then, I can guide you better.

     And, the truth is, many of your questions will be answered as you need them answered.   Some answers will come from within, and others from colleagues and Twitter posts and professional resources.  My email is always open to you, and the rest of the D100 literacy coach team is here to support you as you follow our literacy plan.

     Workshop model and balanced literacy are the heart of our district literacy plan.  It is driven by shared beliefs and common planning and a growth mindset mentality and lots of best practices.  We do have a program.  I even held up the Units of Study box and showed it.  But, I held it up and hopefully made it clear that the program is not our curriculum.  THE KIDS ARE.  

     Meet your students.

     Set up your workshop.

     Incorporate pieces of balanced literacy into your literacy instruction.

     Ask for support.

     Invite me, your literacy coach, your peers, etc. into your classroom.  

     You will be great.  And, someday, I hope you appreciate that this district that hired you believes in teachers so much that YOU can make decision in your classroom about how your students need to be taught.  We learn from each other, but respect each other enough to allow for instructional differences.  Workshop and balanced literacy allow for you to find the pieces that fit your students' needs.  Putting together the puzzle isn't always easy, but it sure can be powerful.

     Welcome to D100!

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