Saturday, April 23, 2016

Growing Educators

“One reason, so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

— Anthony Robbins

I spend a great deal of my work week talking about growing readers, writers, and researchers. Today, I want to talk about growing educators. Reflecting on my growth over the last ten years, I see a change in my belief system. The educator that I was and the educator I am now are almost like two different people. Something happened along the way that changed ME.

I realized that the only person who could change in my school culture was me. I had been waiting on others around me to "show me the way"! I began asking questions rather than blaming others. I wanted to know more about what children needed to become successful. I was determined to find answers and grow. I took ownership of my professional development. I realized that professional development should be a career-long endeavor, not just a once-a-year offering by my district.

I guess you could say that I moved from a "fixed mindset" to a "growth mindset." Mindset is a simple idea discovered by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck. Teacher agency is another term I like!

"Teacher agency is typically viewed as a quality within educators, a matter of personal capacity to act (Priestly et al., 2012) usually in response to stimuli within their pedagogical environment. It describes an educator who has both the ability and opportunity to act upon a set of circumstances that presents itself within that individual’s leadership, curricular or instructional roles. The educator described would then draw from acquired knowledge and experience to intercede appropriately and effectively. Agency is increasingly rare in the educational world of prescriptive improvement, and the term is too “often utilized as a slogan to support school-based reform” (Priestley, Biesta & Robinson, 2012, p. 3). " Teacher Agency in America and Finland By Roger Wilson, GVSU Faculty

Notice it states that it is a rare quality. I know for a fact that it is very rare. So many educators are waiting for someone else to get busy fixing, finding, doing or creating things that will change school culture and student learning. While we are all waiting for someone else, nothing changes,

I became tired of waiting and developed a sense of urgency that is with me to this day. We have so little time to grow our learners! We must make each day count. I can't say that my change made everyone happy or that I was appreciated. It took courage and perseverance. It still takes courage today to step out and say what needs to be said. I spend a lot of time thinking about children and not about adults. What is best for children in the classroom?  How can I keep them engaged throughout the day? What will inspire them to be lifelong learners? The questions never stop!

The more time I devote to professional development and learning; the more passionate I become! It is a worthwhile and exciting journey. I want to leave a legacy of promoting change in education that greatly impacts children. I encourage you to journey with me! Together, we can make a difference.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Inquiry Based Learning

"We have a classroom system, where we could have a community system."

Do we run our schools as a factory system focused on control and order? 

It is time we shift our thinking and practice! 
It starts with teachers.

Where can teachers find information about inquiry?
I have read Harvey and Daniels revised book, Comprehension and Collaboration. It is a great "how to" book, and a great place to start.

Another approach is Genius Hour. A great way to find out more about implementing Genius Hour is to look on Twitter #geniushour! I have found many resources this way.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Complementary Strategies: Phonics and Meaning

Image result for reading difficulties

The nature of reading difficulties is complex. Many children have difficulty processing letters and sounds. Others can decode text but have trouble understanding what they have read. What is a teacher to do? What does research support? 
Phonics instruction or whole-language?
 Do we have to choose?

Reading instruction is not one-size fits all. Instruction may involve phonics, strategies for constructing meaning, or both. Over my career, I have developed the belief that children need an integrated approach. As a parent of a bright child with dyslexia, I saw the need for phonics. Complementing the phonics instruction, I worked with him on developing meaning and expressing his thoughts and ideas about the text.  He finally became a reader when he found a series that he could read and enjoy. (This supports the idea that readers to need to read a lot and read interesting books that they choose.)

Research also reminds us that complementary strategies support struggling readers:

" Since reading essentially involves two basic and complementary processes: learning how to decipher print and understanding what the print means, an integrated approach to reading instruction is mandatory. This assertion is consistent with key findings from Cowen’s (2003) synthesis of six major research studies of approaches to beginning reading – each of which concur that reading for meaning and understanding cannot be taught separately from direct phonics instruction.19 Likewise, and despite the cautions of Adams (1991) and Moats (2000), in making the case for a ‘balanced approach to reading instruction’, Strickland (1998) notes: ’Avoiding instructional extremes is at the heart of providing a balanced program of reading instruction’ (p. 52)." Found Here

I like Strickland's statement! Teachers need a toolbox full of strategies that will meet the needs of students. We cannot rely on just one strategy or approach to reach our struggling readers. Teachers need professional development and support in order to reach these struggling students.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Carl's Christmas

I love using picture books when working with students. It gives them the opportunity to invent the story. I love hearing their ideas and seeing what they notice. I have been reading all of the Carl books by Alexandra Day. My grandson loves them! 

Here is a writing paper to go along with Carl's Christmas.