What I Know for (Almost) Sure #sol18

IMG_2270.JPGWhat 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.

I hesitated.

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.


an example of my spontaneously, perhaps messy, thinking and demonstrating.

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.




Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.32.28 AM.pngThanks to my writing community, my fellow encouragers, and twowritingteachers.org for helping me thrive outside my comfort zone. Read their amazing insights here.


IMG_2272Welcome to our new elementary teachers.  May your career be full of spontaneity on the edge of your comfort zone.

13 thoughts on “What I Know for (Almost) Sure #sol18

  1. What courage! What you modeled here is that you’re all in this together- as learners. There is no expert, but rather a team going through a journey together. I love the approach to this PD. If you ever want to coordinate a little long distance PD/partnership, you have friends in CT that would love to share ideas, triumphs, and challenges!

  2. This slice, what happened to you, for you is, pure gold! We often strive for those workshops, those meetings where authentic talk happens and it feels genuine but the reality is, it doesn’t always happen! I am inspired by your willingness to go for it – you are brave, you are smart! Those teachers who shared in that conversation with you are starting their year off on the right foot! Thanks so much for putting yourself out there and sharing your story with us!

  3. Awesome post! Teacher go back on Monday and I am changing grades and teams. i will be outside my comfort zone, but this post has me jazzed about “that rarefied air” I will encounter as I start this new journey.

  4. Bravo! I’m so impressed with your courage. I’m sure you weren’t the only one who walked away from the conversation feeling inspired! What a wonderful way for all of you to start the year!

  5. This is GREAT! So wonderful that you could let your teacher pick the topics and then work together with them to discuss what could help small group work and conferring. There is definitely a “knack” do doing that well – I have seen some teachers be great at it! And, YOU do know a lot….I am glad you realized this and are comfortable (becoming comfortable) enough to not have a “script”. I am sure what you told them was received as coming from the heart – your heart. Happy for you!

  6. I appreciate how your slice nods to all the experiences and their inherent ups and downs that set the stage for what only seems like winging it. I’m struck by that difference: between explicit planning of direct instruction and the tacit planning that accrues during a lifetime of learning/teaching. Sounds like the latter just slid closer to your comfort zone 🙂

  7. Love this post, Susan! And look at the responses! Thank you for your honesty and flexibility. I’m grateful we went through this together

  8. Pingback: What I Know For Sure – Where There's Joy

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