Is Learning “Lost” When Kids Are Out of School? (Alfie Kohn)

by Fran McVeigh

Wow! The Twittersphere was on fire on 10/22/2020 when the #G2Great chat discussed Alfie Kohn’s article from the Boston Globe, “Is Learning ‘Lost’ When Kids Are Out of School?” You can check out the article here and the Wakelet for the chat here.

I trust that you will want to check out the article as Alfie Kohn succinctly answers his own question. But that also causes a few more questions for readers which is why the discussion was scheduled with the #G2Great audience. What’s important? What matters?

Here are a few tweets illustrating that point.

Where do we begin? Many government officials and capitalists would have us begin with assessments but if you espouse “student-centered” education then you already know that we must begin at the very beginning. Are there really gaps? How would those be assessed? And how would we really assess learning? And that circles back to student-centered learning. We begin with student assets as identified in the tweets below.

In the Boston Globe article, Alfie Kohn pulls no punches with his beliefs about standardized tests. Do they REALLY measure learning? Well, that then requires us to think about learning. Is learning merely the regurgitation of factoids, examples, and curriculum that could be answered by a Google search? Or is “learning” something else? What do educators believe? How would students respond?

Here are some thoughts on “What is learning?” from the #G2Great community.

So if we are not going to use standardized assessments to measure “Learning”, what can the education community STOP doing now? How can we help “Learning” be the sustained focus and not just the “flavor” for a chat response or a newsletter? How can we make LEARNING the focus of all our future conversations?

In order for instruction to provide opportunities for learning as well as choice, and adding in “student-centered”, what will educators need to be working on expanding? What about: Student agency? Empowerment? Choice?

These four tweets will jump start your thinking about additional actions for your school community.

Is learning lost? There may be some summer slide, but as previously mentioned, students have shared powerful learning from their at-home work that has longer lasting life-time implications for their communities. Where will change come from? What will it look like? It will begin with a belief in the need for change. We can no longer afford to prepare our children for the 20th century. Change has been needed for decades and is evident that we are now in the THIRD decade of the 21st century. The pandemic just made the need for change more visible when schools were shuttered across the U.S. (and Canada) last March.

Where will YOU begin? Who else needs to read and discuss this article with you? When? The time for action is NOW! The students are depending on YOU!

Additional resources:

Alfie Kohn (Books, Blogs, Resources) Link

Alfie Kohn – Standards and Testing – Link

Alfie Kohn – How to Create Nonreaders (Yes, 2010, but read all 7) Link

#G2Great: Preparing for the Unexpected

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet Link

Thursday, April 2, 2020 #G2Great focused on lessons learned on the journey from typical March classroom experiences to environments ranging from “shelter in place” to the distribution of online learning sessions. Each chat participant had their own stories to share. Their own successes. Their own fears. And even their own JOY.

Words matter. Words matter most in times of uncertainty. This is my new favorite word: Ultracrepidarian. An eight syllable word that packs a lot of meaning. According to dictionary.com, it means:

“noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise: The play provides a classic, simplistic portrayal of an ultracrepidarian mother-in-law.” (dictionary.com link)

Recently education has been under attack from many groups. Many of them seem to be ultracrepidarians. We won’t know the full extent or REAL impact of Covid-19 school closures for generations because there are just too many “unknowns” at this time. We can speculate that some immediate changes will occur. But will they be lasting changes? Will it depend on the REASONS for the changes? We need to be aware of the voices and words from ultracrepidarians.

Three key ideas that surfaced in our chat were: a focus on students, daily choice reading and writing, and teachers as a collaborative community of problem solvers and leaders.

Focus on Students

In Kylene Beers’s “Office Hours” session earlier in the day, Kelly Gallagher shared with all the attendees that one true abiding belief that sustains him is that students are at the center circle of all we do. That seems fairly common. But let’s follow his thinking as Kelly explained that the second concentric circle is for teachers and then out beyond that is the curriculum, the standards, and the course content. Inherent within that first circle is all the joy, creativity, curiosity, and independence that radiates from students and requires careful nurturing to flourish and grow in times of trouble. When we begin with a focus on students at the center of learning, it seems easier to ensure that instruction is responsive, matches students needs, and continually challenges students to stretch and grow. Marisa Thompson’s tweet matches those beliefs.

Daily Choice REAL Reading and Writing

Stories sustain us in times of trouble. Stories provide an escape from reality and allow us to dig into deeper meaning in our lives. Writing stories also allow us to reveal our thinking, explore ideas, and process the events occurring in our lives. Using “stories” literally does not mean short stories only. It also doesn’t mean books only. Reading and writing need to include short and long term projects and sources to keep volume, interest and engagement high as communication needs shift. Time for REAL choice reading and writing may also mean “going slow to go fast” and/or reducing the number of teacher-directed units. As teachers plan to “finish out the year,” those plans will require flexibility so students have equitable access, opportunities to learn, and the needed structures to ensure motivation and engagement remain high as Julie Wright describes below in her tweet.

Teachers as a Collaborative Community of Problem Solvers and Leaders

Teachers are being challenged to move from 0 to 60 miles per hour immediately to find ways to provide supportive, safe environments for students to flourish. Some had the benefit of time to organize and study together before plans were finalized. Some had the benefit of opportunities to gain input from parents and caregivers before brick and mortar schools closed their doors. Some pressure is self-induced as teachers have high expectations for student learning. But not all expectations are the same and local, state and federal administrators will be wise to ascertain local needs and expectations before mandates become edicts.

Why does it matter? Teachers as the leaders and the decision-makers are entrusted with the care of students’ emotional, social, physical and intellectual growth. That is why teachers begin with students and their needs as the focus. Technology-based learning may be a concern, but it is only ONE way of approaching student learning. If students have no devices, technology is not the answer. If students have no bandwidth, technology is not the answer. If parents/caregivers, and multiple students need to be online learners within the same environment, flexible schedules will be necessary with fewer synchronous learning requirements. All of those components will require teachers to generate thoughtful plans and choices. Similarly a “packet” of papers is not the answer either. Learning expectations need to be purposeful and clearly designed to meet student needs. This is not the time to revert to practices that are not in the best interests of students. A community of teachers collaborating together can problem solve and generate learning ideas to maximize time and space to lead to a higher degree of success. This is after all why so many people are teachers as Kitty Donohoe shares in her tweet and also framed in Justin Reich’s quote shared prior to our chat.

So why does it matter? Everyone is scrambling. Everyone has ideas. Everyone has personal preference. But everyone also has to remember the WHY of instruction that matches their community values. Basic needs have had to be prioritized as folks have lost jobs and endured weeks of lockdown in close proximity of family members who are struggling with the loss of food and fiscal resources, fear of the unknown and the stress of rapid changes. During times of trouble, time becomes an even more precious commodity.

What do you value? How do we know?

The final question, question 8 from our chat, is one you all need to discuss and come to consensus on in your buildings and districts so that your actions will be based on your beliefs.

Link

And here is a quick summary of the eleven items that #G2Great chat members listed more than once when responding to Q8 according to the Wakelet.

  • 2 mentions: See learning differently, Joy, Laugh, Love, Rest, Go Outside
  • 3 mentions: Create, Listen, Talk
  • 4 mentions: Play
  • 6 mentions: Write
  • 8 mentions: Read

In conclusion, there are no WRONG answers in the current uncharted Covid-19 Survival World. There are “better” answers. Slow down and be thoughtful in your responses. Commit to strengthening relationships. Commit to doing the best you can. Commit to being the best you can. Commit to being the kind of person that you will be proud of. Commit to finding a group of folks to bounce ideas off of and to share the load of the work ahead.

And above all, give yourself grace to make mistakes, to make missteps, to ask for help, to grieve, and to take care of yourself, your family AND your school communities! Be safe! Be careful! Use soap and water!

#G2Great: Reflective Readers with Travis Crowder

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet Link for All Tweets

On Thursday, January 23, 2020, Travis Crowder shared his wisdom with the #G2Great community around his new book, Reflective Readers: The Power of Reader’s Notebooks. The Wakelet link above will yield hours of clarity, direction and awareness of reading selves which are at the center of reflection. Because being REFLECTIVE is the heart of this book, this post begins with Travis and his reflections.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

Since I began teaching, reflective thinking has been at the heart of what I do with students. As my instructional practice moved from traditional to a workshop approach, I found myself asking students often to look back at their reading and their reading lives and write what they noticed— new understandings, beliefs, feelings, and the changes they saw in themselves as readers and thinkers. Without even recognizing it, these ideas became the foundation for action research I was doing in my classroom.

I wrote this book to share my thinking with colleagues who are intrigued by the critical literacy work we do, as well as educators who are wanting to see shifts in students’ reading lives. I stand on mighty shoulders. My work with readers is heavily influenced by other educators who have learned alongside their students. I hope that teachers will take my ideas and place them beside their own. I don’t see my work as a replacement of the work teachers are already doing, or a program; instead, it’s a model of thought, one that has helped me move my readers forward. It has deepened their thinking, helping them see how they’ve grown in their personal reading lives. I hope that it will help the professional world look at reflection differently, and hopefully, engage us in a discourse that will ultimately make our students grow into confident and more capable readers. 

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

First, it’s important to know that response and reflection are not synonymous. They serve different purposes in the life of a reader. Second, it’s important to have a balance of them in the classroom. When I started writing about reflection several years ago, I noticed a beautiful dance between response and reflection— the ebb and flow, how one naturally moves into the other. So often, writing about reading stops at response, and although responses to texts are paramount, reflective thinking is what moves kids into deeper analysis. Last, I want teachers to help students read better versions of themselves. We teach in a climate where kids have forgotten what it means to connect. But we can remind them of their sentience. With books and time to respond and reflect, we can help them see the models of the world that await them in stories. And over time, I truly believe they will impact their world. 

So what did we explore during the chat? Three key items emerged as I perused the Wakelet and revisited my notes. Those items are: clarity, direction, and reading selves. You know your own practices best. Will you begin with reflective work in your own reader’s notebook or with the work your students are doing in their readers’ notebooks?

Clarity

The chat began as does Reflective Readers with a discussion of what “reflection” is and isn’t including its relationship to “response”. Both response and reflection can include personal thoughts but it really depends upon the depth of the work which can be readily accessed in a student’s writing in a reader’s notebook. This notion of similarities and differences between response and reflection led me to making a personal T chart to compare the two in order to help me both define and understand them. A response is often tied directly to the surface facts or elements of the story, character, or plot lines. A reflection usually reveals more thinking that connects the text and the reader. As I explored this idea for several days (remembering that I see the questions in advance), I considered my past experiences and opened up my own reader’s notebook. Response, response, response. That is what seemed to be expected in many classes and in work that requires text evidence. Multiple choice tasks. Tasks with “right” answers. . . Those all led to responses. Reflection came in when I spent time digging into a specific topic/theme and compared texts or how I personally connected texts in novel ways. How does clarity of REFLECTION help you to deepen your own understanding?


Direction

Where does our reflection lead us? The direction of our thoughts depends on our reading, our texts, the time and space that we provide for reflection, and our goals and values. Reflection cannot be rushed. Reflection provides “the contour to our experiences, and forms the geography of our thinking.” (Crowder, T. Reflective Readers. p. 6) Students can document their own growth and change in their reflections as Travis so beautifully shares the frames in his portrait gallery of students. Do you want to up the game for students? Frame their work. Provide frames or mats to showcase the importance.

Reading Selves

What are the habits of readers? What are the most important habits of readers? Your values influence your answers. One inarguable habit would be that one needs to read and read a lot. Volume of reading matters. It may have a different effect at different stages in life, but reading is at the core of being a reader. But is reading a lot sufficient to be a reader? I would argue that it is NOT sufficient. Instead it is the reflective thinking that develops additional life-long reading habits.


Just as we began with thoughts from Travis and myself, the conclusion will circle back to Travis’s message from the heart and my final thoughts about Reflective Readers.

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

The professional text that is at the center of this chat is a culmination of my thinking over the past several years. It is not a program or prescription for readers; instead, it’s a way of thinking about kids and their reading lives. More than anything, this book is the story of my literacy work with young people. I value the stories they bring to the classroom, the things that make them who they are, and I want them to see reflection as part of their story— of their reading and their learning. Giving students opportunities to respond and reflect with tools like hashtags and Tweets give them another lens through which to see their reading. They aren’t the only tools, though. I’m confident that the things that you do in your classroom to help your students tell the story of their learning are brilliant. Placing them beside my thinking will only strengthen what you’re already doing. And placing my thinking beside yours will nudge my readers, too.

Is reflection only for school days? I think not because I believe reflection is a lifetime pursuit. That is why this topic and text has fascinated me. I have to both respond and reflect on my own reading before I can ask students or teachers to do the same. Our own practice with responses and reflections will guide our learning journey as we develop our own portrait galleries. When we value competent, confident readers for today and tomorrow, our students will develop into the reflective readers that we need!

Additional resources:

Benchmark PD Essentials: Reflective Readers: The Power of Reader’s Notebooks (Link)

Travis Crowder Blog (Link)

Twitter:  @teachermantrav

Fran’s T chart comparison of Response/Reflection . . . After Reflection

Fran’s T-chart that evolved with reflection on Clarity, Direction & Reading Selves

Yes, They Can Series #4 Empowering Leadership

by, Jenn Hayhurst

Click here for the Wakelet

Make no mistake, all teachers have it within them to be leaders. It is a teacher’s work to give students a voice to express their opinions on the world.  When students first discover their identities in society a teacher is usually behind the scenes making that moment count. Teachers lead students to discover their ideas about themselves, and how to exercise their personal power. A teacher shows children how to set meaningful goals, and those goals may be life-changing. Ask any child who learns to read or write if their goals matter. I assure you, they will have lots to say if they have an engaged teacher leading them on their way. Teachers everywhere are deconstructing walls to access and equity so that all their students see themselves in their classrooms. Their students trust they will be treated with fairness because that’s just what good leaders do. Students in these classrooms understand that they are held in the highest regard not for what they can do, but for who they are.

On Thursday, November 7, 2019, the #G2Great community came together to explore ways to empower leadership in the fouth, of a five-part series entitled, Yes They Can! The kinds of teachers who go out of their way to participate in our weekly chats are change agents. These are the leaders who create agentive environments for everyone around them because they bring everyone up with them. They raise the level of discourse in their faculty meetings, they encourage kids to take risks. All of this is the truth, and here is one more truth to consider – most of these extraordinary teachers are the very ones who might be reticent to see themselves as leaders.

That is why this chat was such an important one. This perception, I’m just a teacher, has to change. Now more than ever we need teachers who see themselves leaders who will advocate for kids. The rest of this post is going to celebrate the teachers who decided to join in the conversation. I let their words stand on their own for your consideration.

Educational Leaders to Follow…

Leaders keep students and their well being at the center of every decision. They also make a point to make personal connections with students every day

@TracyLafreniere

Find student strengths and create opportunities for students to excell….the whole child can and should be able to stretch out of the four core subjects!

@ERobbPrincipal

A better mandate would be a wall of student names and a collection that every adult has of those names until every single one is taken by an adult who knows and has connected with them

@MelanieMeehan

Start with a vision, created thru collaboration, of what learning looks like, feels like and then establish the expectations. Important to remember high expectations are attainable by all students.

@mollienye72

The only way to increase sustainability is to quit chasing one initiative and quick fix after the other and look for real solutions that will breathe new life into the heart and soul of the school. We have to set our sights in lasting change!
@DrMaryHoward

As I read over these quotes, I get a sense of the impact these educators are having on the world. To me, a teacher is the most important kind of leader there is working in public service today. Every time a teacher goes above and beyond they are shaping their students’ perception of what it means to be an adult. Every time they demonstrate having high expectations for themselves they are inspiring a sense of personal excellence that will influence their students. When these remarkable teachers lean in and say, “Tell me more.” when a new piece of research or professional development, they are living a learner’s life. These wonderful people exist in the world and the world is a better place because they exist. This post is dedicated to you readers, and all the teachers just like you, who may never read it. You are leaders to admire, thank you.

Every Child Can Write

by Fran McVeigh

The #G2Great team exuberantly welcomed Melanie Meehan to the October 3, 2019 chat two days after Every Child Can Write: Entry Points, Bridges, and Pathways for Striving Writers entered the world. As I pondered both entry points and organization for this post, I decided to begin with Melanie’s words in response to our three basic author questions.

1.  What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

Every day I get to work with writers across all grades and across all levels. Because of my work, I have seen the impact of increasing access and entry points for writers that has led to growth for these students, regardless of functioning levels. 

Very few people enjoy a struggle when they don’t believe they will overcome it, so we have to figure out ways to make the learning and growth seem possible to everyone in the community– especially to the writer. There really is a big difference between thinking about students as struggling or thinking about them as striving, and I hope that people who read this book come away re-examining their beliefs about students.

So often our beliefs become our truths. I want everyone– including and especially our children– to believe that every child can write, and then I want teachers to have practical strategies and resources to help make that happen.

2.  What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

Not everyone is ready for the same curriculum and instruction on the same day, but it’s overwhelming to deliver an entirely separate lesson for students who aren’t getting it. That being said, the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development as described by Lev Vygotsky is a game changer for me. We can’t keep asking students to try out tasks and strategies that are way beyond their reach and ability, and it’s exhausting to create scaffold after scaffold that helps writers create a product without understanding the process. When we do that, we’re sending messages over and over that they can’t do it without us or the scaffolds we create. With those consistent messages, it’s human nature to stop trying and avoid the task or situation all together. So how do we change it up in ways that empower students, but is within the realm of possibility for teachers? That’s where reconsidering entry points may welcome students into the learning process. Or maybe it’s constructing bridges so that students have different ways to join the process. That’s where those metaphors that make up the title come it. I hope that teachers see practical and possible ways to teach all students to write. 

3.  What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Our job is to find the entry points and provide the access so that students are challenged and moving forward without being overwhelmed and over-scaffolded. We live in a world where being able to write is a critically important and empowering skill. We can all teach them to write when we believe they can and we have the tools and understandings.

So many times even when students look like they are paying attention, they have no idea of what the lesson is really about. Engagement, interest, caring about something– those have to be in place for not only behavior, but also for academic growth. I feel like I keep repeating myself, but the message of the book is that all children can write.

Why this book?

I am a bibliophile. I probably need a 12 step program because I am addicted to books. I love to explore the ideas in a book through multiple readings. I also love to meet authors and hear about the books in their own voices. So when an author that I admire professionally writes a book, I study it pretty carefully. I was waiting for this book for months. I asked Melanie about it in March over coffee. We put the chat on the schedule in June, and Melanie submitted the quotes and questions in record time.

And then I finally had a copy to read. Every Child Can Write had me hooked from the first reading of the Table of Contents – written in complete sentences. Thorough. Thoughtful. Timely. With provocative yet practical ideas. Well organized – so well organized that I read it from cover to cover, TWICE, before I drafted my first blog post. I reread some parts, read the Blog Tour posts, revised my draft, and studied the blog posts again. I was worried about capturing the essence TWICE and doing justice to this gorgeous addition to the professional world.

This book is based on these beliefs:

1. All children can learn to write. 2. It is a fundamental imperative that we do everything in our power to teach the students in our care how to express themselves through words and through writing. – Meehan, M. Every Child Can Write. xviii.

Who has to have those beliefs?

Students and teachers alike have to believe that all students can write and that is fundamental to every chapter in Melanie’s book. It’s also fundamental to the literacy instruction in classrooms around the world. All students. All teachers.

What are obstacles that interfere with student writing?

Beliefs are the beginning. Then instruction has to match those beliefs. Sometimes the instruction does not meet the students’ needs. What obstacles might interfere with learning? Check out a sampling of responses from our twitter chat. Have you heard these from your students or teachers?

Knowing “potential obstacles” can help you address obstacles confronting writers in your classroom. Do the students need practice? Do they need choice? Do they need confidence? Crowd sourcing these possibilities from a #G2Great Twitter Chat is one way teachers can step outside their current practices, sharpen their focus, turn their gaze back to their students, and study them anew. (The responses to “perfectionism” as an obstacle can be found in the Wakelet link.) You may also have collaborative conversations with your grade level team to explore improvements in environment, routines, practices and usage of charts through a book study. Every Child Can Write provides support for instruction and problem solving with entry points, bridges and pathways to help striving writers gain independence.

What do you need? Entry points? Bridges? Pathways?

Where will you begin?

Additional Resources:

Blog Tour Stop 1 with Clare Landrigan – Link

Blog Tour Stop 2 with Kathleen Sokolowski – Link

Blog Tour Stop 3 with Paula Bourque – Link

Blog Tour Stop 4 with Lynne Dorfman – Link

Blog Tour Stop 5 with Fran McVeigh – Resourceful Link

FYI:  I reviewed an advance prepublication copy of “Every Child Can Write” that was available for the #G2Great team.

#BowTieBoys Reflections on NCTE 2018: Student Voice and Choice

by Mary Howard

Our #G2Great chat family was abuzz with excitement on 12/13/18 when our good friends #BowTieBoys led by teacher Jason Augustowski returned as our guest hosts (excitement that was elevated by a first time visit from our new friends, #HairBowGirls). #BowTieBoys have taken the chat seat of honor on five previous occasions including 4/26/183/8/185/25/173/6/17 and our very first #BowTieBoys event on 6/9/16 with guest Sam Fremin.

Their most recent visit followed their presentations and attendance at NCTE 2018 in Houston last month based on their reflections of the NCTE theme of Student Voice and Choice. These remarkable young men talk, rap and write about education, sharing with educators their belief that teachers are the key to making our schools a more positive and productive place as they offer specific suggestions that would bridge the existing teacher-student gap. 

Pause for just a moment and imagine what these young men ranging from grade eight to senior in high school have accomplished. I wonder how many of us could even envision sharing our ideas about teaching at a national conference, YouTube Channel, or blog post. Having experienced their powerful voices in each of these arenas, I am well aware that their collective commitment to education drives them. They are so uniquely accomplished at raising their voice and listening to them is a reminder that students are our future. 

Since this was their fifth #G2Great visit and the topic was student voice and choice, I thought it made sense to depart from the usual #BowTieBoys blog post and let their voices lead the way.  I posed questions and they graciously breathed new life into each one. We are so proud to share their words of wisdom on our chat and in this post:

What inspired you to form #bowtieboys?  What impact did you hope that this group could have on the education world and in what ways has that vision become a reality? (question posed to teacher, Jason Augustowski)

I was originally inspired to create this group when NCTE came to Washington D.C. in 2014 (our backyard).  I had already presented in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Boston and was inspired by how many teachers came to these conventions to collaborate – all in the name of doing right by kids. And that’s when I thought – but there isn’t a kid in the joint.  How do we know for sure that we are accurately meeting their needs if they aren’t a part of our planning, our assessing, our grading, our environment building, etc.?  I had built a really strong rapport with my students and their families not only through teaching, but through directing school and community musicals and coaching travel paintball.  Bringing students along to the conference was the next step in my own professional journey and one in which I truly and whole-heartedly believe. We have to ally with students as 50-50 partners.  We need to create with them to offer the most authentic choice and experience in their learning. When establishing environments, we must not only work with our colleagues, but with our kids. We need to make rapport central to the classroom (the famous quote: no kid cares what you know until they know that you care). Let’s replace worksheets with inquiry and assigned readings to libraries of inclusive and diverse texts. Let’s stop focusing on the “rules,” “playing school,” and “the way it is/has always been” and become rebels, disruptors – true educators (that are first and foremost informed ourselves). But not informed by state mandated curriculum. Not informed by politicians who have never set foot in a classroom. Informed by the constituents with whom we work each day: the students (and dare I say it, their parents). And I learned all of this from my students (when I sat down long enough to listen). We presented in D.C. with Sara Kajder about shifting the classroom paradigm (both in terms of flexible seating and autonomous instruction). And I was proud. And I thought this magic could never happen again, for NCTE 2015 was scheduled to take place in Minneapolis… and there was no way parents were going to accompany their kids across the country, right?  Wrong!

Being a male teacher, I assumed that male students gravitated to me which is why our group was comprised of boys. So, when our then small group presented in Minneapolis (this time with Lester Laminack) we decided to dress in matching outfits and boast bowties. Lester immediately dubbed us “the #bowtieboys” and the name stuck. Traveling around that conference and the following year in Atlanta, the students were able to learn, make connections and networks with our teacher heroes, enjoy the vendors, and experience a professional situation not common for their age. But after Atlanta in 2016, we were in store for another major shift. Our group grew from three to ten and would then grow again in 2018 to fourteen.

At the start of 2017, our then group of ten, took to the interwebs with a commendable force and passion. They established Twitters, blogs, a YouTube channel, began conducting professional research (they have collectively read my entire professional library), and working on a textbook in which they could encapsulate their flowing ideas. They were dedicated to make a change in education by showing teachers what students can do when given the environment and support. They wanted to partner with teachers and promote that partnering all across our nation. And to some extent (at least we like to believe) they have.  They have had the opportunity to present multiple times in St. Louis and Houston, guest host five #G2Great chats, and one #NCTE chat. They have led professional development for career switchers and teachers in our home county and they are ready to do more.

Coming in 2019 we are extremely excited to announce our new identity: BOW-TIE (Bringing Our Why because Teachers Include Everyone).  This group of now FORTY students of all genders will manage an all new website featuring the following exciting additions: an About Me page (where teachers can get to know the stories behind each of these incredible students), the Blog (the old posts will be there, but newly reformed and re-imagined. Think Newsletter, Podcasts, and beyond), the YouTube (where students will be writing, shooting, editing, and uploading original content every month), links to social media (not only will students maintain their original Twitter accounts, but we now will post on our GROUP Twitter and Instagram – look for the @handles in the new year), and a Contact Us page to aggregate booking requests. BOW-TIE wants to hit the road and come to a school district near you to learn alongside your teachers, administrators, and students. We couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds and couldn’t be more thankful to all of our friends, colleagues, and supporters who have believed in us from the beginning and helped these students make meaningful contributions to our (and their) world. Below are some of their thoughts: 

The following questions were answered collectively by students Dawson (Doug) Unger(junior);Kellen Pluntke(senior)Ryan Beaver(junior)Rishi Singh(junior)TQ Williamson(junior)Christian Sporre(junior)Spencer Hill(junior)Joe O’Such(junior)Jack Michael(freshman)Jason Nguyen(freshman)Aaron Eichenlaub(grade 8)Nihar Kandarpa(freshman)Sam Fremin(senior); and Connor Grady(junior):

Being a member of #bowtieboys comes with responsibilities beyond your own school demands. What motivated each of you to become a member of this group?

School stopped being fun for most of us in late elementary or early middle school in part due to a loss in curiosity and creativity. Learning and school in general felt like more and more of burden and our natural curiosity was constantly degraded. Part of why many of us joined was because we saw that school degraded our curiosity, not building it, and that needed to be changed. Not only did curiosity degrade over time, but many of us felt that even as we became closer in age to teachers, they would become more and more standoffish. By advocating for change in these regards, many of us also wanted to push outside our limited bubble and interact with the world in a truly impactful manner.

How have you benefited as a member of the #bowtieboys?

Due to the special and groundbreaking path of the #bowtieboys, we have built nearly unparalleled leadership skills. It is also never a bad thing to be part of anything new and innovative, which is the mission of our group. By reaching into new audiences, we have been able to become affluent with networking skills and advocate for ourselves and others. We have reached into a broad scope outside our confined bubble and interacted with teachers and educators across the nation. We have had an incredible audience to communicate with and for the first time for many of us, we our writing for an intrinsic, not extrinsic cause. By truly doing something we are passionate about, which no doubt requires a lot of time and effort, requires significant self-motivation.

More specifically, we’ve:

  • Developed leadership and networking skills and have seen a dramatic rise in our public speaking ability.
  • Started to intellectually evaluate more than just the material and have constructive criticism. Speaking off the hip and being able to talk on the spot.
  • Learned to share our thoughts in constructive ways.
  • Been able to reach outside my own bubble and look at many other parts of the world and open my eyes.
  • Been given a chance to thoughtfully voice opinions and open the door for other students.
  • Gotten more well-spoken and confident.
  • Become better, more articulate writers.
  • Started to write for an actual audience and not a grade, but an intrinsic drive.
  • Received a platform to speak from and advocate for myself and others.
  • Learned self-motivation.

Each of you have presented at NCTE, many of you on several occasions. How has this experience changed you? What contributions do you feel that you have made as a result?

NCTE is a lot of networking, plain and simple. By connecting and interacting with educators across America, we have had to build our networking skills, often in a trial by fire. To effectively network, we have to be not only willing but proactive in talking to others. Often, we develop into our own cliques, which isn’t a bad thing, but NCTE helps us move outside these cliques. Not only does NCTE break down any cliques within the #bowtieboys, but also gives us experience to talk to others outside our groups.

In much of the same trial by fire, we have had to become capable to talk (and rap) in front of hordes of teachers. Many adults have rambled on the importance of public speaking, yet few students participate in public speaking outside of class presentations. NCTE gives us a raw unfiltered experience of public speaking.

Finally NCTE is one of our greatest assets in the regard that it serves as our most valuable platform. We put the idea of student voice and choice on full display, often by intertwining typical classroom experience with other intricacies of our lives, seemingly unrelated to teaching, to construct coherent and constructive feedback for teachers from their clientele: the students. Through the fantastic experience that is NCTE, one remarked that they had smiled in those four days more than they had smiled for years.

Why is it important for educators to keep their minds open to what students have to share with us about our own practices? Give an example of how you think your efforts can change the professional world.

Education is to some degree a business, with teachers as the employees and students as the clientele. In any successful business, the employees must cater their products to their clientele. We are the clients of education, and by no means should we completely control the realm of education, but we must be an integral part of the education field. Students are constantly changing, which makes it all the more vital that education changes. Yet this cannot happen without student input, which is why our group is built on giving constructive student critiques that emphasize student voice and choice. Much like how writers don’t notice some of their mistakes, teachers may not notice some of their mistakes. The students can act as a peer editor for the teacher. It makes any of our days when a teacher either asks us what we think could take their teaching from good to great. Even by opening up educators’ mind to student feedback, we feel we have made a pronounced impact on the professional world. 

What is one thing that we can do as educators to listen more openly to our students for the purpose of understanding possible changes that will benefit student learning?

One of the schools in our area has a unique schedule where four days a week, students meet with one of their teachers for about 30 minutes and discuss how things are going in that class. Although it is more than a stretch to implement this, the concept can be used as a quick warm up or exit ticket. Just ask your students to give their constructive thoughts on how you can make learning enjoyable. Although there may be ridiculous comments, many students will take the opportunity seriously. Although this isn’t the best way, it is a subtle one and a way to show that you care about your student’s voice. Overall just embodying a transparent pedagogy and keeping an open mind can drive student voice and change.

We have had members of the #bowtieboys contribute to the #g2great chat five times since Sam Fremin originally participated in the chat in 2016. What have you gained from these twitter chats?

Learning new ideas and being able to voice our own ideas has been a cornerstone of the group since we began. With the chat, we have been able to receive quick input from teachers and students from all around the country. A network is created through NCTE that the #g2great chats recreate. Because of this, participants of the chats have become great friends for some of us that we are able to connect with through twitter or at NCTE each year and continue to learn from. It is truly a pleasure to meet new and amazing people.

CLOSING THOUGHTS…

I pause to look back at the profound reflections of fourteen amazing young men and a teacher who trusted them to use their voices to have a positive impact on this profession. As I ponder their sage advice, I am reminded how inspiring it is to see them in action. I have had the great pleasure to watch them work their magic on a crowd and even to participate in their sessions. It has been an honor to get to know each of them personally and I am filled with deep pride for all that they stand for. But now I long for the changes they seek.   

You see, we talk a good game about keeping students at the center of our professional efforts but I wonder how often we actually bring the term student-centered to life where matters most. How often do we silence our voices long enough to ask our students how we can be better and truly listen to what that means from their eyes? And if we aren’t doing that, how can we make “student-centered” more than a buzz word and turn it into a reality that could lift us higher as professionals and thus transform our learning spaces into memorable experiences that are for and about students?

As I close this post, There is one picture that was captured at #NCTE18 that captivated me personally and speaks volumes. This photo was taken just before #BowTieBoys presented at a roundtable session chaired by Donalyn Miller called Nerdy Book Club: Building Strong, Inclusive Reading Communities (C.58). I think it says it all:

Take a good look at this remarkable image. THIS beautifully reflects the collective spirit that defines this wonderful group of young men and one dedicated teacher. They each believe deeply in what they are doing and have banded together to help us to see our teaching through their ever so wise eyes. I think that we owe it to them and to this profession to pay attention to what they have to teach us.

As I was finishing this post, I took a moment to peruse the chat once again. For the first time, I noticed a tweet from TQ Williamson shared just after the chat ended. I smiled to think that the #BowTieBoys experience will someday beckon an inspired and curious new educator into this profession filled with the hopes and dreams of what COULD be rather than what IS. Let’s not wait to make TQ’s vision a reality!

Links to read more about #BowTieBoys

Mary Howard #NCTE18 Post: Learning with #BowTieBoys & Jason Augustowski

#BowTieBoys YouTube Channel

#BowTieBoys Blog Spot

Twitter Contact Information

Dawson (Doug) Unger(junior)

@dawsonunger (Junior)

Kellen Pluntke(senior)

@KellenPluntke

Ryan Beaver(junior)

@RBeaver05

Rishi Singh(junior)

@RishiSingh08

TQ Williamson(junior)

@tq_williamson

Christian Sporre(junior)

@CSporre

Spencer Hill(junior)

@spencerhill99

Joe O’Such(junior)

@Joe_OSuch

Jack Michael(freshman)

@jackmichael776

Jason Nguyen(freshman)

@JasonNg70025993

Aaron Eichenlaub(grade 8)

@AEichenlaub729

Nihar Kandarpa(freshman)

@NKandarpa

Sam Fremin(senior)

@TheSammer88

Connor Grady(junior)

@ConnorGrady11

Jason Augustowski (teacher, 10thgrade/AP Language)

@MisterAMisterA

Teach Like Yourself: How Authentic Teaching Transforms Our Students and Ourselves

By Fran McVeigh

On November 29, 2018, Dr. Gravity Goldberg returned to the #G2Great chat table for the third time to discuss her fifth book. Previously Gravity joined the #G2Great community with her collaborative partner Renee Houser, What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? (link) and for Mindset and Moves (link).

All of her books have added to our literacy knowledge but this is the book that will be perfect for new teachers, for mentor teachers, for lead teachers, and even experienced teachers who are experiencing some doubt about their current role and purpose in education or even a “personal crisis” in the form of confidence about their teaching life. This book will lift you up and encourage you to build on your inner strengths as well as seek out a community where you will thrive. The three quotes below were pre-tweeted out to the Twitterverse and the #G2Great community as “Words of Wisdom” in the hour before chat and opened up the topic of #TeachLikeYourself as both a singular and collaborative effort.  

And that focus remained for the entire chat. Sometimes we discussed individual teacher roles and sometimes we discussed the collaborative product of the efforts put forth by a group of teachers determined to provide quality learning experiences for all students.

And we were off with this opening quote from Gravity’s new book that listed three key ingredients that teachers need:  a deep sense of self, confidence and freedom.What does a deep sense of authenticity or self entail?

A deep sense of authenticity or self means that you, the teacher, know yourself. Your real self shows up to teach. The self that interacts with students, parents, community and staff day after day. The teaching self that is “you”. The you that is focused on the students in front of you who are learning every day just as you are also learning side by side with them. Responsibility for learning rests with the individual teacher and the daily work in the classroom.  

As a group, we can be genuinely curious about our students.  We can also build on students’ strengths and share our successes.  And we can also share what has been successful for our teaching challenges in order to “share the love” for what works when we have high expectations. We will remind each other that FAIL means “First Attempt in Learning” and we will get up and try again when our work misses the mark.  Having a thought partner will make this journey toward authenticity easier!

What is “confidence” in our practice?

You have “confidence” in your practice when you use something that has had proven success before. It doesn’t mean that you become a “robot” or immediately “adopt” someone else’s work/beliefs, but it does mean that you will seek out additional ideas if something is not working.  You will exhaust all avenues in order to go “the extra mile” for your students.

When we have confidence in our practice, we can face the barriers and stand strong. The barriers are many so we appreciate having a community to stand with, beside, and around us! Internal barriers include self-doubt, comparisons to others, worry, stress and pressure when students don’t make the progress expected. External barriers include: common pacing guides, common assessments, lack of time, limited classroom libraries, mandates that are contrary to beliefs and values, and many more listed in the wakelet. Teachers who have confidence in their practice rise above those barriers and retain their authenticity as well as flourish in the knowledge that students are successful learners!

When do we have the freedom to show up fully as ourselves?

When we feel supported or work in a supportive environment – team, grade level, building or district that is supportive – we have the freedom to show up fully as ourselves. That does mean that we need to take the initiative and be clear about our needs as well as then name when those needs are met in order to enable others to show up fully as themselves. We intentionally and purposefully manage our own self-care daily as well as make sure that we are not impeding others’ path to their own self-care.  

Sometimes it means that we have to step out of our comfort zone to help others. The professional relationships that we build and nurture may be in our building or they may be in a different part of our state or even in a distant state. Valuing other ways to connect with individuals is a skill that we can nurture for ourselves as well as help students see the value in connecting with individuals in other locations. Professional learning then becomes about sharing what we have learned as well as what we need to learn and then growing collectively to share ways to continue to grow our knowledge and skills.

The solutions lie within the teachers in every classroom in every building in every district in every state/country. Driven to continue learning, to be the best teacher, to be authentic, and to grow every day  – those are characteristics of teachers who are being their “best” teacher every day. If you are having a challenging day, stop and think . . . are you out of balance?  RE-center your deep sense of self, your confidence in your teaching, and your freedom to show up freely as yourself. Can you do this by yourself?  Who will you ask to help?

The section that I return to often with teachers is:

“Start with Why

Know your why.

Get clear on your what.

Decide on how.”  Goldberg, G. (2018). Teach Like Yourself. p.25

When are you authentic? 

How do you know? 

When do you have the freedom to show up freely as yourself?


Are the ideas in the sketchnote some that you heard in the chat?




Check out these resources for more ideas about being your true authentic teacher self!

Wakelet

Corwin – book link (includes preview of Chapter 1)

Facebook Group – Teach Like Yourself

Webinar  Corwin – Link 

Gravity Goldberg and Renee Houser What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow?

Gravity Goldberg Mindsets and Moves

these 6 things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most

By Fran McVeigh

Focus?

My eyes were devouring the text. Everything about the author. Everything. It’s been my pleasure to know Dave Stuart professionally, online as a blogger and in person, for several years. He is a teacher, author, speaker and thought-leader. Dave’s work impacted my practices and thinking as an educator when he encouraged teachers (and me) to “not freak out” over the Common Core. Many authors have written books about focus. A search for “focus” at Corwin Press had 827 results. A search of Amazon Books for “focus” resulted in 101 pages with a range of 18-19 entries per page. Focus has been a pretty popular topic.

So what’s different?  “Focus on What Matters Most” is the conundrum. Who decides what matters the most? Each teacher? Each grade level? Each building? Each department? Each district? Each state?  Do you see the problem? Dave proposes that we “focus on what we already know” as we work “Smarter, not Harder” and he gives us “permission to simplify.” No fancy language. No slick new strategy. No magic silver bullet. We learn from and with a trusted colleague, as literally, Dave shares how to streamline literacy instruction while increasing student achievement.

There’s a no-nonsense attitude. A bit of a “git-r-done” response. Time spent, yes. Time wasted, no. And that was the core of the #G2Great chat with first-time guest, Dave Stuart, Jr. on Thursday, October 25, 2018, as folks gathered around the #G2Great hashtag to converse and share ways to focus teaching.

But let me give you one last piece of advice . . . this book will not solve all your problems.  This book will not help you work eight hour days or less. If that’s what you are looking for, please stop reading now.  Instead, this book will help you use a decision-making framework that focuses your values, your goals for your students, and some key content areas to work on improving.  YES, improving.  Growing your skills in a few key areas to maximize learning for students. A laser-like focus that will help your students grow into the life-long learners that you know they can be. Your reward will be in knowing that you have done the best that you can! Let’s get started!This was our opening quote. I’m going to invite you to take about 30 seconds now to pause and reflect. Pauses will be inserted at several points for some brief processing time. Pauses like speed bumps. Slow down, pause and think.

What are your thoughts about this opening quote?

What would it change for students in your district?

 

Mt. Everest

Dave argues that teachers need coherence of purpose, or an “Everest Statement” that encapsulates all that they hope to accomplish in a given year. What is the range of expectations for students? Academic? Life-long? Work-related? How broadly do folks think? During our chat, discussion of “Everest Statements” ranged from readers, writers, thinkers, talkers to building relationships with students and teachers and moving striving students to more successful behaviors and habits.

What is your “Everest Statement”?

Did you co-create it with your students?

 

Relationships with Students Matter

Students need to do the work of learning. In order to do quality work, students must see some value in that work in order to complete it with “care, attention, effort and focus.” Otherwise, the work remains undone or of such poor quality that it is difficult to ascertain if students are learning. Teachers don’t have to be master entertainers with cute gimmicks and gadgets for students to learn.  Instead, students need to know that teachers care and that teachers are asking them to do relevant work.

 

How do you connect with students? 

How do the students know that you are credible?

 

Knowledge Required 

Learning does not happen in a vacuum. So many facts can be googled but there is still a basic layer of knowledge that precedes talk about a topic. This aligns with Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. The key is not staying in the low recall level very long. What’s the implication for focus? Reading, writing, speaking and listening have to move to higher levels routinely and often. Analysis and synthesis require students to participate and think. Classroom routines and procedures need to nurture and lift up the complexity of student responses.

 

How often are students moving beyond recall?

What structures do you have in place for discussion?

 

Argument

Being able to disagree with someone without being disagreeable is a learned skill that takes practice and involves both listening and speaking. An argument can be as simple as rehearsing two sides to a question to determine the next course of action or as involved and complicated as a formal debate. Arguments in content area classes can be about which examples best define a vocabulary term or which traits represent historical figures or about which tool has the best consumer product rating in an applied science course. Dave uses “pop-up debates” to practice arguments. This is another example of a way to begin with some basic knowledge through reading, writing, or other media and then build up to evidence of the use of critical thinking.

 

What role does argument play in your classroom?

How might you use oral practice (pop-up debates) to build student skills before writing?

 

Public Speaking

Public Speaking. One of the biggest fears of most adults. If the speaking and listening standards at your school still resemble the Common Core standards, then speech is no longer relegated to a one semester high school course.  Speaking and listening are required of every grade level and every content area PK – 12. That’s not just wishful thinking. Speaking or discussing is an easy formative assessment. Speaking is a quick check for understanding after reading. It’s an important rehearsal skill. And it’s also complex because spoken responses also run the gamut of Bloom’s or DOK skills. There’s also a delicate balance between the level of comfort in sharing ideas and disagreements that is dependent on the level of respect, trust and community in the classroom.

 

What are my expectations of myself for public speaking?

What are the expectations for my students?

 

Does this apply to me?

An elementary teacher friend texted, “Should I check out the chat? Dave’s a high school teacher.” And of course, I said, “YES!  You must!” I believe this is a book that will frame conversations so all teachers can figure out what matters most. It will be incredibly helpful for content area teachers in all secondary classrooms. But I also believe that it’s helpful from the winter holiday on for teachers in second grade and all teachers in grades 3-6 (or any teachers on a PK-12 vertical team) who have ever asked any of these questions:

“How do I focus when planning curricula?”

“How do I focus when planning instruction?”

“How do I focus when preparing school or building wide policies and procedures?”

“How do I focus when feeling stressed or defeated?”

The role of focus in a teacher’s life is undeniable. Being as productive as possible during the teaching day frees up time for families and life outside of school. Time that is necessary to be the best teacher possible for every minute of the school day. Dave’s book won’t make all the decisions for you, but it will give you a framework for self-reflection and conversations with co-workers. That will put you on the path to a focus on WHAT REALLY MATTERS!

What actions will move you forward?

Where will you begin?

 

 

This post reflects some of the ideas from the #G2Great chat with a little background from the book.  You will need to check out the book to get the full picture.

You can simplify your teaching, teach all the standards and have a life. Dave Stuart Jr and these 6 things will start you on that journey. Grab a couple friends, read the free first chapter online, and get the learning started!




Links for Additional Exploration:

Corwin Book

Dave’s Blog

Check out the #NCTE18 program for sessions with Dave Stuart Jr.

Dave Stuart Jr. book signing at NCTE Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 4:15 in the Corwin Booth!

#G2Great chat Wakelet

“Sparks in the Dark”

By Fran McVeigh

The Sparks in the Dark chat with authors Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney was trending on August 16, 2018 by the second question. No doubt about it. A chat based on a book with a foreword by Penny Kittle captured many minds and hearts and then exploded across the Twitterverse for one hour. The wakelet was collected. I was carefully perusing the conversations, seeking out tweets to curate while capturing additional sparks. What tweets would garner my attention and showcase the chat? What ideas would continue to fan the sparks and create a blaze across the #G2Great community? I kept returning to the book subtitle. Book subtitles say so much about a book. “Lessons, Ideas and Strategies to Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in All of Us.” What to collect? What to display? What to hold tightly to? How to write a blog post to capture the chat and the text, the words and ideas of the authors, the passion of Sparks in the Dark?

In order to rise to this challenge, I resorted to the dictionary for guidance in understanding the subtitle. Definitions are a common beginning for me. So what does “illuminate” mean? “To light up” And what about “ALL”? From my own reading: Teachers, Administrators, Students, Families, and Communities … Everyone. Wow! Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in ALL of Us. What an important goal!

How could this text be used?
A study group could use this book to assess their current status in literacy. Personally.  Collectively. Each of the chapters offers “Things to Think About and Tweet” that include #SparksInTheDark so the conversations could be out in the world on Twitter. Internal and external conversations could spark additional applications.

No, this book does not offer fancy surveys to give you data that makes you feel good and affirms that “Yes, you are doing the right thing.” Instead, Sparks in the Dark will provide you with conversation starting points to grow the strength and fortitude of all readers and writers in your building. Rich conversations that will encourage you to dig into personal and collective values, attitudes, beliefs and habits. Or after conversations you might develop your own questions that you want to answer with a survey or some other form of data collection. Administrators will grow as they explore Todd’s leadership stories across multiple campuses and teachers will grow as they unravel the threads in Travis’s path to creating lifelong readers and writers. It’s not a book for the faint of heart.

Do you read on a regular basis? Do you write on a regular basis? If you don’t like to read or write, stop right now. This book is not for you. But if you don’t like to read or write, I would encourage you to examine why you are teaching students. Why are you working with our most precious resource, the children of our world, if you don’t have a passion for reading and writing? (Chapter 2 Disturbing the Universe and/or Chapter 7 Critical Conversations)

Why did Travis and Todd write this book?

“In writing this book, we sought to encourage, challenge, inspire, question and shift your thinking when it comes to reading and writing and instruction overall. We hope we have shown you glimpses of our hearts and our classrooms and schools as examples of what is truly possible when you start to believe in what was once thought as improbable.” Sparks in the Dark, 2018

Conversations, tweets, and quotes from the book fell under several important concepts: Personal, Priority, Powerful, Persistence, Patience, Perspective and Pedagogy.

Personal
What is one book that you have read recently that touched you deeply in some way? That opening question was answered in many ways that you can see for yourself in the wakelet.  “Touched you deeply” means not just a book to complete a task, or to record on a log, but a book that evoked a powerful personal response. Is that a priority for you? How would we know? What would be the evidence? Todd posted this example of public posts in a school building for students or teachers.

Priority

Books need to be present in every classroom, in every hallway, in every nook and cranny. Free up the space and the resources to make ALL books easily accessible and important-not just the books in the ELA classrooms or the library. Building staff might decide on a long-range goal and plan to increase classroom libraries and access for students and families.

Powerful

Readers and Writers change because of their literacy responses. Those “personal” responses above can become even more powerful when we collaboratively celebrate by sharing the initial difficulties, the continuing struggle, the messiness and back and forth nature of seeking meaning that ends in the ultimate joy of our reading and writing. Building staff might choose to study their own reading and writing journeys.

Persistence

Time will be both your friend and your enemy. Staff meetings need to include literacy work that moves teacher understanding forward. Whether you try Todd’s “choose a read aloud with another staff member” or you deepen your work with students and make sure they are all included in the texts in the classrooms! Naysayers will need more positive interactions in order to see the necessity for change, but your persistence will eventually pay off. Similarly, students are not all necessarily going to be overjoyed to take on more work that is required of them when they learn and think deeply about topics that that they choose. Change takes time at all levels.

Patience

Find others in your building to join your literacy group or seek out like-minded individuals on Twitter, Voxer, or Facebook to continue to grow collaboratively. Enlist the aid of your students. Advocate for student needs. Give students voice and choice so they are empowered to think and advocate for themselves as well.  Building staff might identify and discuss the “beacons of light” that illuminate and sustain your learning.

Perspective

Opening our minds and our hearts to new situations in books and in the world brings us closer together and increases our own understanding. This also helps us more easily grapple with change and find similarities in current work and desired states. Change is not easy but it’s within our grasp if we build a solid base. Honoring beginning steps with “I used to …, but now I …” can be a rich faculty discussion.

Pedagogy

Teachers improve their craft by reading and exploring new resources. You might want to review some titles under A2 in the wakelet to see what others are reading. But a deep understanding of reading and writing comes from those who work to improve their knowledge and skills in order to outgrow their own reader and writer selves. This means lifelong learning for all as a professional responsibility. A common building expectation to constantly share faculty reader and/or writer notebooks. That’s more than just one tiny spark. That should be a blaze visible from miles away without Google Earth!

What begins as a spark, fueled by passion becomes a flame. Perhaps a beacon. Reading is important. Writing is important. Education is important.  Many other factors can and are part of those flames as previously included: Personal, Priority, Powerful, Persistence, Patience, Perspective and Pedagogy. In Sparks in the Dark, Travis and Todd say

“…my role as an educator – no matter my subject specialty – is to use the tools of reading and writing to develop all of my students and staff.” (Sparks in the Dark, 2018)

Travis also says that “Quality reading instruction does not begin with literature, it begins with students.” Students, not standards, assessments, or programs. Students, books, and the subsequent reading and writing that calls them to be better human beings.

How do you begin with students to fuel your sparks and continuously fan your own flames?

What other resources do you employ – books, professional resources, or communities of learners?

How do you prevent “book deserts” on your campuses?

Additional Resources:
Wakelet   Link
Podcast    Link
Book         Link
Blogs – Travis Crowder link           Todd Nesloney link

Reconsidering Our Professional Resources

by, Jenn Hayhurst

On Thursday, August 9, 2018 members of #G2Great’s PLN had an important conversation, Reconsidering Our Professional Resources: Calling Publishers and Marketers to Task. We’ve all seen them, those glossy brochures promising student success so long as “their plan of action” is followed with fidelity.  Nonsense! This is what I know for sure, success begins by believing in teachers. Smart, resilient, talented teachers; these are the professionals who have the power to make a meaningful impact. This blog as well as our weekly #G2Great chat exist to extend a platform that amplifies teacher voice. What was the message we sent out to the publishing world?

Listen to what we really need…

Thinking Outside the Box

Undoubtedly, there is an unlimited array of resource options at our disposal. Consumer choice is great and yet it can also be overwhelming. Boxed programs offer solutions but the truth is we have to think outside the box! Taking a more expansive view includes gathering the perspective and wisdom of other educators. There are are more opportunities to exercise personal agency than ever before, social media has given us access to each other. Now we can grow our Professional Learning Networks (PLN). We can support professional organizations nationally and locally. We can be ambassadors for professional learning.  

Get the Whole Picture

Educating children is complex, so when a  publisher or marketer, offers rigid solutions we need to get out the yellow caution tape, the orange cones, and flashing red lights because this is a professional danger zone.  We need to do our own research on their research!  We need to gather an array of formative assessments to look at how our students are performing inside our classrooms so we can inform any outside purchases. The most important thing to remember is to trust that we are the experts when it comes to our students. Once we know them, we know what resources we need to look for to inform our practice. 

Start off on the Right Foot

A dynamic faculty is more than having good teachers and administrators. A dynamic faculty has a shared vision. Once you have a vision making decisions about professional resources becomes easier. Two tweets stood out to me because they both speak to identity and vision. Roman (@NowakRo) knows himself he is a reflective educator who  values design thinking and collaborative work. Gravity (@drgravitygLLC) is a an author / researcher but I suspect the title she likes the most is… teacher who builds teams for collaborative work and shared vision. Know who you are, articulate what you value, and collaborate this needs to happen prior to purchasing anything. 

@drgravitygLLC

Raising the Bar

What does your curriculum ask of you?  Curriculum that is a living document, that is informed by real practice, requires more from us.  A go-to professional resource that maximizes the quality of teacher practices has to be relevant to decision making for day-to-day teaching. When research teams like those from Teachers College Reading Writing Project (@TCRWP) create resources you can be assured they are vetted in the field.  The work they recommend is born from their think tank and is work they are actually doing so it will be relevant. This kind of work is constantly changing and growing because it keeps pace with teacher learning and discovery.  

Everyone: On the Right Page

It is imperative to initiate collective conversations before money exchanges hands for professional resources because if we don’t listen to the stakeholders there will be no ownership. If there is no ownership initiatives  will fail.  Collective conversations are always at the heart of growth, and I think this is the best way to begin the design process for supporting a child-centered perspective. 

Don’t Miss the Mark

Authenticity is the antidote to basal programs and scripts  Authenticity can be realized when teachers have ownership over what they will learn and when schools invest in teacher education and learning. We are not so very different from our students. we are all at different points in our understanding for literacy instruction. As a result we all have different needs and our ongoing education education needs to match wherever we are in that continuum. So long as our learning rests squarely on students and their developing literacy learning we can’t go wrong. 

Cut to the Chase

We are living in the 21st Century of course technology has an important place in the classroom. However, it can be misused as electronic worksheets.  It should be our goal to enhance our practice through technology; while being careful that it  does not substitute or diminish  excellent teaching.  For one thing, teachers not tools make the decisions. For another, accessing print resources and digital texts to build rich classroom libraries  is an imperative. Students, teachers, and texts are the heart of the classroom. 

It’s ironic that we are asked time and time again to  look for answers outside of the classroom when what is really needed is to take a closer look inside our classrooms. When we asked teachers what they need, they told us. In the end, I think Mary said it best, “To do more great work, you need to make not one but two choices. What will you say yes to? What will you say no to?”  Good to Great Teaching Focusing on the Literacy Work That MattersThis is how we really put publishers to task so we may keep our students where they belong, at the center.