What I Know for (Almost) Sure #sol18
August 14, 2018
This might be titled Way Out of My Comfort Zone but that wouldn’t be exactly fair or accurate. That is how I felt yesterday morning.
As a literacy specialist, I have participated in facilitating our yearly new teacher literacy bootcamp for nine Augusts. As a educator past the active mom years, this late summer duty many years fell to me alone. There is some ease to planning alone. Your ideas are your own. You have a flow. You absolutely know who is going to do what. But the benefit to the participants is slim. They only hear one voice and one perspective. As teachers, we can work in isolation, when working together makes us stronger. That’s what we hope for with our students.
This year, I had a partner. A partner in idea generation. A partner in planning. A partner is bring the plan to fruition. A partner is presentation.
We had agreed early on to increase the level of participation by the new teachers. As with many of our recent professional development presentations, we are making a conscious effort to mimic the work we want to do with students with adults. We want students to do the thinking, the heavy lifting. We know this builds capacity. We believe that is true of adult learners as well.
We also agreed that the content is dense. Our ability to explain philosophically and practically what is entailed in the reading and writing workshop, implementing the units of study, planning for the workshop, assessment, conferring, and small group is a lot to take on… and take in.
My partner had an idea. What if we let the participant pick what they wanted us to expand on. What if we took a few topics in the reading and writing workshop and let the rank what they wanted to talk about, direct the talk, and very extemporaneously lead a discussion on that topic. What?!?! My initial response was… I can’t do that. I can’t just whip up knowledge about a topic out of the air.
However, it wasn’t completely out of the air. I have hours and hours of experience co-teaching and observing in classrooms during workshop planning and implementing lessons in the units of study. My colleagues and I committed to reading the entire first units in reading and writing kindergarten through fourth grade over the summer where we had once read pieces well, piecemeal. I have been to Teachers’ College many times and heard the authors of the units, practitioners, and enthusiasts speak about implementation of the units and workshop. I follow amazing educators through social media. I have read and read and read. I know some things.
And so yesterday, the new teachers decided that they really wanted to know more about conferring and small group. That’s encouraging. So I sat down with first the intermediate teachers and then the primary teachers to have a chat about conferring and small group. Something happened in the first moments. Something I want to hold on to. Something important.
In that moment, I gathered my thoughts. I unconsciously gave everyone else a moment to be present as well. It felt like the moment when everything settles to the bottom of a snow globe.
Then…we talked. Authentically talked. Did I impart wisdom with a capital W? No. I talked about a few things that have helped me organize my and colleagues thinking around individualized learning in literacy. I hope I made it seem like a colleague that was just offering up some maybe try this suggestions. It felt collaborative. It felt genuine. It felt natural. It felt like the best idea I didn’t have in a long time.
I might stay in that rarefied air outside my comfort zone for a while longer.
Welcome to our new elementary teachers. May your career be full of spontaneity on the edge of your comfort zone.