On Thursday February 23, 2107 we welcomed Pernille Ripp into the #G2Great community. Pernille launched a dynamic conversation centered around what it means to embrace learning through a close examination of our own teaching. As I write this post I am thinking about Pernille’s brave question: “Would you like being in your classroom?”
Pause a moment to think what these reflections from @lyonsroar and @ButlerNgugi and @JillDerosa mean to you:
There are many ways to link their thoughtful responses. But for me the linchpin is their open curiosity for student learning and a willingness to change upon reflection. In a very real sense their responses are at the heart of how #G2Great came into being. Yes, for those of us who were called to teach, our work is extremely rewarding. However, that is not the driving force for what we do every day. Our work was never really about our personal fulfillment. A teacher’s work is always done in service of our students:
One small question leads to another and another and all at once we find ourselves immersed in curiosity leading down unexpected paths. Questions are the catalyst for growth. A teacher who creates a classroom that invites discovery is a teacher who is a muse for wonder. You may wonder how might this become a reality in my classroom? Pernille reminds us that the most important work begins with a small shift when she asks us,“What is your small change for monumental differences?” Read @emilyfranESL, @katie_spadori, and @hodge_dv to see how they responded, what do they share?
Expert teaching is a marriage of art and science and is bound by careful observation. The content we need to know above all else are the students we are so fortunate to serve
Thank you Pernille. Your words sparked an amazing conversation that cut to the heart of what teaching is really all about. You reminded us all of our ability to influence our students through careful reflection and observation. We make a difference every day we enter the classroom as we open up our minds and hearts to what students need most:
February 16, 2017 was a very special day in our two-year history of #G2Great Twitter chats. This momentous occasion marked the first time a father-son team shared the #G2Great stage as we enthusiastically welcomed Dr. Tony Sinanis and his amazing son Paul Sinanis. To make this event even more spectacular, we spotlighted a perfectly magical theme, “Instilling a Life-Long Love of Reading from a Student Lens.”
I’ve long been a fan of principal Tony Sinanis, spending hours savoring his words in remarkable tweets, book, blog, and even a #G2Great twitter chat on leadership. Shortly after reading Tony’s exquisite post, Let’s Not Kill a Love of Reading, I received an email alert of a new post. I opened his blog in joyful anticipation and to my pure delight I discovered exquisite post number two written by his middle school son, Paul, Yes I Love to Read. In an instant, Paul’s post made me an official fan club leader of two members of the Sinanis family!
This chat rapidly took shape in my mind and heart as my growing sense of reading love urgency spurred me to immediately contact Tony and Paul about being guest hosts on #G2great. The very thought that we would be discussing life-long reading was exciting enough but to do so from the lens of both educator and student was the icing on the love of reading cake. I knew Tony and Paul would collectively spark inspired dialogue but before the chat even began Paul’s enthusiasm set off a virtual explosion of reading passion that lit up the Twitter world:
There’s no question in my mind that the educational universe is desperately in need of enthusiasm only young people like Paul can bring to the learning conversation. When students and educators come together to initiate collective dialogue, this collaboration can maximize our efforts to do our best work in their name. After all, who better to view our teaching from the receiving end than students? #G2Great is so committed to bringing student voices into the conversation that we have previously spotlighted the gifts of Eden & Ella of #Kidsedchatnd and Sam Fremin of #TheBowTieBoys (the entire #BowTieBoys team will honor us on #G2Great 3/16/17).
While Paul’s blog post captivated my heart, it also broke my heart to read the words no teacher should ever want to read about the impact of their instructional choices. Sadly, I have seen the love of reading hijacked in far too many classrooms and I can’t help but worry how many students share Paul’s feelings. Quite frankly, we should all be horrified that any child walks away from their school experience with such feelings. Well, shouldn’t we?
We owe it to all of the Paul’s of the world to make the choices that will instill a life-long love of reading, especially in an age where reading for pleasure seems to be pushed to the values sidelines, crowded out by a laundry list of so-called priorities that pale in comparison. We have an abundance of research on the critical role of authentic reading with incredible authors leading the way such as Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle and Terry Lesesne who have made it their life work to spread this message. Yet, far too many students are still slipping through the love of reading cracks. Why?
So where do we even begin to accomplish the lofty but ever so worthy life-long love of reading goal? Lately as I travel to schools across the country, I can’t help but notice that reading in some classrooms is filled with so many rigidly flawed activities in the name of reading that the heart and soul of reading is barely visible (even one classroom is too many). As I look back on the shared wisdom of Tony and Paul, I noticed that they re-captured this heart and soul by highlighting three clear goals that could shift our path:
Before we even consider the WHAT and HOW of reading, we must first identify our WHY. Purpose, or what we view as the ultimate goal of reading beyond our lessons, is the driving force of all we do. WHY gives us a sense of direction that will keep us from veering off the life-long reading path. As Paul and Tony so eloquently reminded us, instilling a life-long love of reading is the foundation upon which all else resides. This is not separate from our instructional goals but could breathe new life into those goals. Without WHY we are simply “DOING” reading while keeping WHY at the center squarely focuses our efforts on students “BECOMING” readers who see reading as a purposeful and pleasurable pursuit both in and out of school. We need learning experiences where teachers and students alike see reading as an event that can support and extend our lessons while serving to beckon our students into life-long reader ‘becoming.’ Don’t the Paul’s of the world deserve that?
But acknowledging WHY is not going to matter much if we aren’t willing to back this belief up with the gift of time no matter how busy we are. When we view instructional pursuits as more relevant that emotional pursuits rather than as two inseparable goals, reading as a joyful event will be first on the priority chopping block. The issue isn’t that we don’t have time but that we choose to use that time in less meaningful and purposeful ways. If joyful reading takes a back seat to STUFF – well, then we’ve misplaced our priorities and cheat children out of their birthright of BECOMING readers. We make room for authentic reading by giving it a place of honor in each learning day and then steadfastly avoid usurping precious time for reading as a purposeful pursuit by refusing to do anything that turns it into a trivial TO DO list. In other words, we celebrate each child’s journey to ‘becoming’ as we put instillling a life-long love a reading at the top of our priority list. Don’t the Paul’s of the world deserve that?
Once we know our purpose and are inspired to find time in the day to honor our WHY, we then acknowledge choice as a co-contributor of life-long love of reading. We ensure that students have access to a wide range of texts and allow them to choose books that have the greatest potential to inspire them in this journey regardless of reading level. We know that books entice our readers and open the door to a love of reading so we happily immerse them in a wide range of beautiful options that will make their hearts sing across their school reading histories. We also know choice is not limited only to books students read but to what they do with that reading. This means that we refute activities that reduce reading to a trivial task such as assigned questions, reading logs, worksheets, and mind-numbing joy-robbing stop and jots. Rather, we opt for the very experiences that are afforded real life readers such as collaborative dialogue, book sharing, and student-centered inquiry. Don’t the Paul’s of the world deserve that?
I must say that I am still basking in the glow of watching this incredible father-son team in action this week. Tony and Paul clearly share the belief that instilling a life-long love of reading matters. This was evident in their tweets as well as the tweets of those who were inspired by them. Imagine the global impact we could have if we all join forces to spread this message and make instilling a life-long love of reading a priority everywhere. What if we screamed this message from the highest educational rooftops in our schools, in blogs, on social media and to anyone who is listening? I think the Paul’s of the world deserve that!
I’d like to close this post with a question that first inspired me to invite Tony and Paul to bring their voices to the #G2great conversation. Why do we need to look to our students so we can engage them in conversations that will infuse their voice into instructional decision-making? Well, the reasons seem pretty clear in my mind:
We look to our students because they are the recipients of our efforts to achieve their rightful status as life-long readers. We look to our students because they have unlimited passion and enthusiasm that would spark our passion and enthusiasm. We look to our students because they are the mirror that reflects how we are doing so we can do better. We look to our students because they have wisdom that could elevate our efforts. We look to our students because we know our actions have a lingering impact. We look to our students because they deserve to enter and leave our classrooms holding tightly onto books that envelop them in a warm blanket of life-long love of reading. We do all of these things because we believe deeply that our students deserve joyful reading long after they leave us and that we can be the impetus that will maximize that potential for every Paul we are lucky enough to have in our professional care. And yes, I think they deserve that!
Thank you Tony and Paul for inspiring us with your wisdom and heart. And Paul, I want to give you a special thank you for reminding us who this wonderful work we do is really all about. Your voice has inspired so many educators to lift up their students’ voices in joyful harmony so our practices will mirror those voices. Please never stop sharing your voice, Paul. We are better teachers because you chose to make #G2Great your first chat…
We are listening and we are forever grateful for your heart and wisdom!
Like Adele, Bono, Fergie, Jewel, Lorde, Pink, Rhianna and Shakira these rock stars who were our special guest hosts only need one name – Eden and Ella. These two guest hosts symbolize all that #G2Great stands for; keeping our students at the center. Eden and Ella are the rockstars of education, they represent the students we all are here to serve. These rocks stars are the reason we are educators and the reason we continue to spread our message; the vision that led us to create our blog Literacy Lenses.
“We envision forging new paths to our best selves with dedicated others standing beside us, shouting words from the highest peaks that help us as we pave the way forward – one step at a time.”
– Literacy Lenses
This dedicated group on our mountaintop includes students, we invite them to stand beside us, learn beside and become a collective force in the learning landscape of education.
Eden and Ella created #kidsedchatnd when they were in fourth grade, they found an innovative way to create a space for kids where they could share and grow ideas together. That collaborative thinking is what we often refer to at #G2Great as thinking in the company of others. It is just what students and adults need to do to engage in the level of thinking and learning we need to be successful, responsible, well-informed and critical thinking citizens in a global community. In spaces like this amazing ideas are born. These are the places where thinkers, often with different perspectives can come together, share ideas, develop new ideas and nurture those ideas as they grow into something amazing.
The short and long term planning that goes into moderating a Twitter chat involve skills that many adults work towards improving, yet these girls – they are doing it! Eden and Ella are driven and they thrive when working behind- the-scenes because they have seen the success that comes from creating a space for kids to share ideas and learn. You can see their energy and passion in the tweets below!
In order to learn, a learner needs to experience something. Passive learning just does not stick for most learners. It could be a shared experience in the class that is set up or some real world scenarios where students experience something and collaborate and problem solve to figure it out. Writing for an authentic audience with real world purpose is another way to create an experience for learner. Learners need context and this is a great way to begin to move across progressions in learning.
As educators, we have a responsibility to teach students how to use digital platforms and social media responsibly. We can no longer make excuses and avoid social media, it is embedded throughout our lives and especially prominent in the lives of kids. If we do not teach students how to become responsible digital citizens and how to use social media they will likely learn it from somewhere else and they may not have opportunities to learn how to be responsible in using social media. Students need appropriate role models to learn from as it relates to the digital world. Teachers have opportunities to teach students how to write and share their ideas using social media with an authentic audience in the real world.
When teachers and students share ideas they each bring their own perspective to the discussion. This reciprocal sharing of ideas through discourse provides opportunities for students to learn a very important skill for the real world. Students learn how not only speak and articulate their ideas, but also how to listen to other voices, particularly when they might be different. The potential for learning when students and teachers engage in this sort of idea generating discourse is something we should want for all students. This provides that students engage and learn to develop complex ideas while they speak, listen, read and write.
Eden and Ella showed us real-world opportunities that explore a new dimension in the Twitterverse that we have really not explored before. We have had students on the #G2Great chat, however creating a shared Twitterchat on February 9th provided us with a lens to see how Eden and Ella have engaged in their own chat and created a platform for students to share their ideas. We learned from Eden and Ella about how planning, experience, responsibility, and perspective all impact student learning in some way. Through the tweets, but also through their process in creating and moderating #Kidschatnd we learned that these four ideas impact student learning and their twitter chat is a model for how students learn.
A few points that we learned from Eden and Ella
Plan: We learned that a plan for learning is important. Eden and Ella plan and complete the behind the scenes work to get their ideas to #Kidsedchatnd.
Experience: We learned that it is important that as students are learning that they are engaged in an experience that helps to create a context for the learning. Eden and Ella are creating an experience through the planning and the chat time that enhances their learning.
Responsibility: We learned that when learners take responsibility for their learning amazing things (#Kidsedchatnd) can happen! Eden and Ella are a model of students taking responsibility for their learning.
Perspective: We learned that it is important for students and teachers to share ideas because when we share ideas, especially with people who have a different perspective, our ideas only get better! Eden and Ella showed us that when kids and adults get together to talk serious about learning, the kids are teaching us!
#G2Great is grateful for the collaboration with Eden and Ella as well as their parents, teachers, and principal. We look forward to future collaborations and know that Eden and Ella will be in our minds, with each and every decision we make, because students have to remain at the center. We will continue to invite Eden and Ella and all students to stand beside us, learn beside and become a collective force in the learning landscape of education.
Be sure as you keep students at the center to check in with Eden and Ella at #kidsedchatnd and follow them on Twitter @kidsedchatnd
From the moment the chat began, our #G2great family came alive as their own sense of wonder virtually spread across the Twitter screen. While their personal wonder was certainly in no short supply, each tweet made it quickly apparent that our #G2Great educators were motivated more by a deep desire to light that flame of wonder in their own students within a place where it could shine ever brighter with each new day.
What is this place for wonder we all crave? Well, I don’t think anyone could answer this question more eloquently than Georgia and Jen:
The enthusiasm of our #G2Great educators made it evident that they embody the spirit of these words. So how can we intentionally create classrooms that inspire the wonder Georgia and Jen describe? As I looked back on their words during the chat, I began to envision a lovely roadmap that would help us make our way to the wonder, mystery, and discovery found in a place where children and teachers alike are passionate about learning and love school.
Wonder is contagious when we look through the eyes of a child
In order to nurture the wonder that naturally resides in the heart of children, we must re-awaken the wonder that we too had as children and bring it back to life. Wonder begins with teachers dedicated to creating an environment designed to inspire a culture of wonder that fans a flame spreading across a room like a wildfire. We keep our wonder perpetually alive when we look through the eyes of our students, joyfully learning side-by-side in a place of wonder.
Wonder can be captured and shared with children
We create a culture of wonder by placing our own wonders in writing alongside the wonders of our children. Recognizing our powerful role as wonder models, we show students how we make our wonders visible on paper so that we can relive the experience that inspired that wonder again and again. We invite them to do the same as we leave paper trails of shared wonder to celebrate together. These references are a constant reminder of the things that captivate us as wonder permeates the very air we breathe.
Wonder is about the journey, not the destination
Wonder rises from the uncertainty that is inherent in the questions that inspire us to wonder – not THE answers that thwart our path to discovery. As we travel along the unknown, each question comes face to face with new questions in a never-ending process of meandering. If we truly listen to remarkable ideas children share without tethering them to expected answers, we are inspired to continue our journey to uncertainty. This journey is what forever keeps the wonder flame aglow.
Wonder grows when we invite wonder mentors to join us
Once we create a place of wonder, we want to invite others to join us. Our invitations are extended to those we know will keep our wonder growing through their words, pictures, ideas, and life experiences. Wonder is inspired with each new story we read about people and topics that send us off into a frenzy of reading and writing wonder leading to new stories shared in a constant stream of wonder joy. Our wonder mentors leave us with a lovely gift that keeps giving within a bottomless wonderfest of exploration.
Wonder begins with WHY, WHAT and “I don’t know.”
We plant new seeds of wonder when we are so inspired by our wonders that we simply must share them willingly and with great enthusiasm. We gratefully let go of the flawed idea that as teachers we must know the answers to every query. Rather we celebrate the not-knowing because we desire the ‘cool wonderer’ we happily set loose into the instructional universe, knowing that we will in turn inspire our smallest cool wonderers to join us. Before we know it, we find ourselves honorary members of the cool wonderer club that only fellow wonderers can join.
As I close this post, I feel a deep sense of gratitude to Georgia and Jen for helping us bring a place of wonder into view. That vision came into even sharper focus when Georgia shared words that have stayed with me since the chat. In fact, I was so inspired by those words that I was moved to look up the full quote from a lecture given by Nobel Prize Winner, Wislawa Szymborska. These words beautifully sum up the inspiration each of us will take from Georgia and Jen:
“This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto.”
Thank you for valuing that little phrase Georgia and Jen. Because of your inspiration, we will forever embrace “I don’t know” in a place where wonder can fly “on mighty wings.”