Time to ReGroup (& Reflect) #sol19
December 10, 2019
We’ve come to the time of the year when it’s time to take stock. Prepare for our New Year’s resolutions so to speak. Take some time to consider how far we’ve come from the aspirations of early fall to the reality of early winter. A new season of school is upon us.
We can no longer attribute difficulties to ‘summer loss’ or ‘adjusting to the school year’, now it’s all on us (collectively). What are the reflective questions to ask ourselves?
For me, so much about this tenth year in this same school is similar and yet it feels so different. With a dramatic shift in the personnel around me and the allocation of my time, I find myself carefully considering many things about both my yearly trajectory and my day-to-day practice. I believe this happens to those of us who work in education quite frequently. Mostly, it’s a good thing.
It’s a good thing because the less stagnant we become, the fresher we are for those around us. I have a lot of experience in literacy and elementary school, but I work best when I approach each new challenge with fresh ideas and a full toolkit. Success is more often the outcome when I listen, I observe, I carefully consider, I remain true to my overall philosophies of learning, and then, only then, I offer suggestions.
We have a child study team at our school, similar to many other RtI practicing schools. I am well known for taking copious notes and always offering up some out-of-the box ideas along with the standard fare. Thinking about something we haven’t tried keeps us focusing on the uniqueness of each student, each classroom, and each situation that comes our way.
One challenge that remains stubbornly consistent over the last years is spelling. Spelling?!? Not word-solving in reading to any extent, but spelling. If I am being honest, I used to think, spelling? That’s what spell-check is for. It will work itself out with technology and practice. Through happenstance, I decided last week to take spelling head-on. What can we consistently do to improve the spelling of individual students and our students overall? Is this perception or reality? How is this global issue related to others that seem to be perennials in the landscape of our school lives?
What do we do when we try to solve a problem? We get right in there. But for some reason (I think I know why), I decided this time, this time it wasn’t going to be about me swooping in and solving a problem by offering a solution to a teacher and most especially, a student. This time was going to be about me listening, reflecting, creating agency in the student herself. So instead of asking, what’s up with this? I asked, what are you already doing well? Hey, kiddo, spelling (insert difficulty here) is a big elephant of a thing. What do you think you are doing ok? How do you know? Then, and only then, did I ask, what do you think you might work on right now?
Here’s what it looked like on paper.
It isn’t magical. It isn’t an amazing piece of insight. Honestly, it might not work. The look on the student’s face as she created this alongside me was everything. I hope it will be a game-changer, but I’m at peace if it isn’t. There will be something else to try, to tweak, to discuss. What all of this is about is moving forward, giving something a go, building agency and mindset and all those things that will stay with a learner long after she’s left me behind.
Here they are, her ideas in my handwriting. As we move forward, I hope she will see it as her success as well.
I write in the company of the writing community created by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them and all my fellow writers for building agency in me and helping me feel my own success.