I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about the amount of control teachers have over their teaching (and, as a result, over their students’ learning). Many teachers I work with, as well as teachers working in other districts, have expressed to me that they feel as though the literacy curriculum is being imposed on them; that the literacy work feels scripted; that they lack any control over their teaching. This concerns me.
I am a Literacy Coach in a district where we have purchased units of study for both reading and writing. The units are built on solid research, are rigorous, clearly articulated from kindergarten through eighth grade, aligned with Common Core Standards, and filled with beautiful texts for Read Aloud and Shared Reading as well as writing mentors. The online resources are incredible too! There are plenty of suggestions for ways to adapt the units, small group ideas, and even suggestions for celebrations and communication with families. These units are meant to be used as a guide – as one way a teacher might travel through a year. I have talked with the chief designer of this work, and she assures me that this is NOT meant to be a script, passively followed by teachers as they march through another year. I do not think this message is clear to many teachers.
I’ve been thinking about how I might encourage teachers to take back their teaching. Even if teachers are asked to follow a calendar of expected units of study and to teach many of the lessons that are suggested (with lots of room for personalization, modification, and adaptation), we should still have about 45 minutes of time in both reading and writing, plus the time we have carved out for Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Interactive and Shared Writing, where teachers are completely in charge! This is the time when teachers are in control of how they craft instruction to meet the needs and interests of their students. They can make decisions about how small groups and conferences might go (Do your students need something that’s not included in the unit? Teach it!), what partnership work can look like (Do your students love to act things out? Add in some drama work!), what materials kids might use (Are you interested in trying a reading notebook in second grade? Go for it!), or how they might handle Read Aloud (Do you want to teach kids how to read a music video or a piece of art? Give it a go!).
After thinking about this for a while, I’m realizing that there are many places in our literacy work that are not scripted or imposed. Let’s take control of our teaching and make it work for our students. After all, that’s what we were hired to do.
I wasn’t going to write today.
The weekend was busy, and I didn’t make time to write.
Work didn’t go all that well today.
My cold has been lingering for more than two weeks.
I wasn’t going to write today.
And then I remembered my new mantra. I adopted it just last week, and I really should be trying to live by it! I heard it in an interview with the female winner of this year’s Boston Marathon, Des Linden.
Here is what she posted to Instagram: Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.
So….I decided to show up and write.
I can’t say this was the best vacation I’ve ever had. After all, the weather was not great (OK, we had one warm day!), my dad ended up in the hospital (He’s recovering now.), we didn’t go away (We used up our travel budget going to Florida in February.), and I ended up with a horrid cold. But still, there is something special about vacations.
Some of the things I love about vacations:
-Getting up and going to bed whenever I choose.
-Having time during a weekday to babysit for my grandchildren.
-Going out for lunch.
-Taking long walks and not worrying about how long they take.
-Not packing my lunch!
-Calling friends I haven’t seen for a while and just chatting about nothing, or everything.
-Completing some home projects and planning for others.
-More time for reading
-More time for writing
So even with some bumps this week, I enjoyed my vacation!
Now I’m looking forward to summer!
Seconds feel like days.
Minutes like months.
The hum of the television is at times comforting, at times unsettling.
Families talk in whispers.
People pace aimlessly around the room.
Waiting for the doctor.
Waiting for good news.
Waiting to hear, “Your dad’s going to be just fine.”
There are so many moments. Every day. Every week. Every year. Throughout our lives. Moments. Many escape without anyone even noticing. Some of my own moments slip right by me (and they’re my moments). But some moments are special. Last night was one of those moments.
On the surface, it was rather ordinary. Just dinner and a movie with my daughter after work. Of course that is somewhat special in itself. Morgan’s job takes her out of the country for months at a time, and when she is “home” she has her own apartment and her own very full life in New York City. So just being home with us is a special moment. But there was something about the evening that was super special. The conversation flowed freely, the air around us was relaxed and easy, the food was great, the movie was quite good, we laughed, we cried, we just were – mother and daughter, together.
I am savoring this moment. Trying to keep it close for a very long time.