Steam is rising fast from my “back to the grind” coffee cup. It is early morning, I wanted a fresh head to write my reflection for our #G2Great chat Breaking Down the Walls of Mandates, Manipulations, and Misconceptions (Thursday, September 9, 2022). The words, Mandates, Manipulations, and Misconceptions are fixed in my brain and are truly at odds with this beautiful Saturday morning here in Northport, New York.
Today is one of those golden Long Island end-of-summer days; sunny, blue skies, and a cool 67 degrees. The landscape is still a lush green with only hints of orange and brown in some fringe trees that are determined to turn early. Now we are leaning heavily towards autumn, and I am taken aback by how much I am looking forward to the change. My head wanders back to Mandates, Manipulations, and Misconceptions and I am struck by a question, one that I needed to ask others:
These are the words that came back to describe the natural qualities great teachers possess:
As I wrote the answers into this word cloud, it felt like all of these descriptors were refining my own inventory of personal qualities. Then it occurred to me the qualities that so many educators are saying they share are really ways to define what we value most in our teaching. If we are all of these things, and then we juxtapose the words: Mandates Manipulations, and Misconceptions… it is no wonder there is so much tumult in education today.
If you are looking outside of education, it would seem that mandates are based on research that is designed to generate positive educational reform. However, more often than not, mandates are underfunded and misinformed because they are not rooted in reality. It is no wonder at all as to why so many teachers find the word “mandate” repellent. It is an interfering word, imposed by people who do not actually work in schools. How in the world do you take a group of teachers who naturally possess qualities like “flexibility” “curiosity” and “empathy” and try to force feed a disconnected uninformed mandate? The answer is simple you cannot, teachers will resist:
It’s easy to suss out the underlying manipulation that beats at a mandate’s heart. It is a fixed definition of success based on (you guessed it) test scores. Mandates often rely on on a narrow intepretation of test scores, and a limited view of what “certain” (insert your label of choice here) students will achieve. Yes, students are switfly labeled, then negated, absolving teachers of any responsiblity. This sends an extremely harmful message to teachers: you cannot fix, what you’re not responsible for. As part of the manipulation, mandates push this notion that some children are pre-destined to fail. This is the deficit lens, and it shouts to all who will listen: “The system is broken! This is the reason why! Now it is time to buy this (product) so it (but the subtext is really they) can be fixed:
The debate always goes public and is always fueled by misconceptions, as each side tries to take hold of the narrative. This is how reading wars are born into public discourse. Each person takes a side when really there are no sides to this. There are only children and teachers and we all want the same thing – we want kids to be successful:
Being the Change
I encourage you to get connected. Find your people who help you “think up”. What I mean by this is find that group of people who challenges you to keep learning, to read more, to be brave and say more, and to keep pushing our profession forward. Find your community at work, and push yourself to find it on a bigger scale. If are already reading this, chances are good that you are a member of the #G2Great PLN. If not, come join us on Twitter, #G2Great Thursday nights at 8:30 pm est (a shameless plug). But, there are other communities to keep the conversation going. Here are three other great chats I can recommend:
This year, our #G2Great team added a new feature to our weekly twitter chat calendar. Since our first chat nearly seven years ago on January 8, 2015, we have had 353 chats and counting. We recognized that many chats need to be shared again so that we can view it from a new perspective and introduce it to those who didn’t see it the first time. We modify the questions in each Blast from the Past chat in order to contemplate a topic or book with fresh eyes that will invite a fresh discussion to inspire new thinking.
This week, we held our third Blast from the Past chat by looking back to 7/16/15 in a chat with Kimberly Davis: BRAVE. This was before we even launched our blog post so it gave us a renewed look at a topic without a written reflection to accompany it. We met our now dear friend Kimberly Davis through a shared friend, Dani Burtsfield, who told us about Kimberly’s TEDxSMUWomen talk: What It Means to Be Brave. I fell in love with this remarkable 14-minute talk the first time I saw it and I still watch it again when I need a ‘BRAVE boost’. I highly recommend it to those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to see it yet.
Early in her talk, Kimberly poses a question to the audience she later discusses:
“How can any of us be our best real selves powerfully, (what I call brave), if we’re feeling afraid or vulnerable or anxious or stressed or overwhelmed? How can we be our best selves in the face of our inescapable humanity?”
As I reflect on BRAVE, other words come to mind from Webster’s dictionary:
Kimberly lives in the business world rather than in education but the wonderful thing I discovered years ago by exploring a world previously foreign to me is that there’s a lovely intersection where our two worlds collide into glorious harmony. I can’t think of anything more important than BRAVE for educators right now. At this very moment, our teachers are entering a new school year in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Through no fault of their own, the now find themselves face-to-face with ill-conceived mandates that are running rampant and people making these decisions have little if any educational background. Following mandates devoid of research basis can do great harm to our children and the teachers who are committed to them. Our teachers’ BRAVE is being challenged, stifled and ultimately erased. Schools don’t want teachers to have a voice and make decisions that would honor their children; instead elevating publishers and others with an agenda who waste our time and money with lies, half truths and total disregard for anything that falls outside of narrow views often grounded in opinion rather than substantiated reality. Educators who bring a vast body of research supported knowledge that could fuel their BRAVE, are being told in countless ways that their deepest beliefs about teaching and learning and years of extensive knowledge is of little value. Professional agency and respect is at an all-time low as scripts, packages, tests and very bad advice is at an all-time high. BRAVE is even more important when we find ourselves standing in front of a roadblock everywhere we turn.
Somehow, we need to rediscover the BRAVE that has been buried under the debris of nonsense. In the face of insanity, it could bring sanity and allow us to carry our BRAVE each day we enter our building, and into the teaching spaces where inspired work with children happens when teachers are unfettered of the dictates that block the way forward.
In this tweet with Kimberly Davis from our original chat, we talked about where to begin:
In other words, being BRAVE not only respects small increments of BRAVE – it openly invites them. You don’t have to climb Mt Everest or jump out of an airplane to be BRAVE. You just need to show up and start where you are at that moment and as Kimberly reminds us… “one situation at a time.”
In the Netflix special, Call to Courage, Brene Brown said,
“The key to whole-hearted living is vulnerability. You measure courage by how vulnerable you are. Today I will choose courage over comfort. I can’t make any promises for tomorrow, but today I will choose to be brave.”
Someday it feels as if our BRAVE is being confiscated, chipped away piece by piece until it’s a mere shadow of its former self. Is Covid 19 and the last two years of uncertainty a culprit? There’s no question that it was a factor. And yet, teachers did what they have always done so many people would be able to bear the weight of uncertainty, loss and sadness. They demonstrated superhuman resolve to rise above that uncertainty, loss, and sadness by showing a BRAVE the likes of which we have never seen before.
BRAVE does not need to be big and bold to garner that title. There are many shapes and sizes of BRAVE, ranging from a reluctant “I’m not there yet but I’m giving bits of BRAVE at a time” to “I’ll shout it from the roof top BRAVE”. It all counts. For some, it can be a matter of showing up even when your heart is breaking or you can barely put one foot in front of the other. During this pandemic, teachers showed their BRAVE when our educational landscape went from Zoom-less to Zoom culture.
There is the BRAVE that teachers lived and breathed pre pandemic and the BRAVE that they continue to embrace every day when they are being told to do things they know is not in their students’ best interest. There are BRAVE robbers that have long existed in education with a barrage of attacks on teachers being told they’re not good enough because they aren’t doing what those people tell them they should. There are one-size fits all BRAVE robbers who want to standardize every aspect of education. Some days, empowerment feels out of the reach. And yet our teachers come to school every day, walk through the door with a smile even when their heart is breaking and do the right thing for children because that’s what they signed up to do. And that my friends is the heart and soul of what it means to be BRAVE.
I’d like to close this post with a personal reflection on one of the many forms that BRAVE can take in our lives. There is a close connection between personal and professional BRAVE and one influences and fuels the other. In March 2020 a pandemic presented us with never before experienced challenges. It was an extreme wake-up call on so many different levels. For thirty years of my life, I had a long-time dream of moving to Honolulu. This dream amplified across the pandemic and yet, there were so many voices in my head telling me that it was impossible: Will I be okay without family or friends? Can I still travel from Hawaii professionally? What if I get sick? What if I need help? What if I don’t like being alone? Will I be able to find doctors? Can I manage without a car? Where will I live? Is it selfish to do this? All of these questions hung in the air like a dark cloud as I contemplated this move. Then one day I was watching a TV show called “The Big Leap” when the words that nudged me to make a decision rose from my TV screen. One of the stars of the show was giving advice to a woman starting over after a divorce:
Isn’t it more exciting not to know how the story ends?
Minutes later, I sat at my computer booking for an AirBnB. So many fears plagued me in those early days but then I thought about professional choices I’ve made across the years that required bringing my BRAVE to the surface. I couldn’t help but wonder why this was any different. I sold everything I owned, said goodbye to my brothers, nieces and nephews and on February 17, 2022, I boarded a plane to Honolulu. I had no idea what the future held but I was certain that I could figure it out in the place I’d loved for thirty years. I’ve now lived here for 191 days and counting – and I’ve never been happier. Have all of the worries that plagued me early on disappeared? No. But I’m living my dream in paradise, and I’ll figure the rest out out along the way without looking back.
You don’t have to move halfway across the country to be BRAVE. Once we understand what BRAVE means and looks like personally, we can draw from that professionally. BRAVE is different for all of us. Maybe it means it means moving to a new school, speaking up, standing up, fighting for what we believe or even choosing a new professional direction when the nonsense is simply too massive to ignore. BRAVE can come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, options, and perspectives. Nothing is too small.
One of my favorite songs that illustrates this topic is If I Were Brave by Jana Stanfield. At the bottom of the video, several people shared their own brave. I smiled today because I’d never noticed one before that now has real meaning:
Bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii 28 years ago. LIFE is a one-way ticket… DANCE. Kay Lynn Satler
I’d like to close with the words of Kimberly Davis in a quote we shared during the chat and then a few of her tweets from our #G2Great chat.
What It Means to Be Brave: Kimberly Davis TEDxSMUWomen
It was truly a pleasure to welcome Julie Wright back to #g2great. It was four short years ago that Julie and Barry were on #g2great for What Are You Grouping For? in 2018 (link) and Julie again in 2021 for What’s Our Response? (link)
I often begin my blog post with the ending. This one is no different. This was one of Julie’s last tweets from our #G2Great chat for Side by Side Instructional Coaching.
I loved the “WE approach” in Julie’s tweet. But to fully understand this tweet I had to look up Abby Wambach. I’m not a soccer fan so she was not on my radar. However, I quickly noted that she was “… the highest all-time goal scorer for the national team and is second in international goals for both female and male soccer players with 184 goals …” “Highest” and “second for both female and male soccer players” caught my attention because Abby is better than good. She’s a Great soccer player. Winners and leaders need to build capacity that sparks collaboration, risk-taking, and growth.
So fitting to have a “sports” connection in a coaching conversation.
Winners build capacity for a WE approach. That matches the OLD adage that ‘there is no “I” in team’ as found in the online Urban Dictionary (link).
Hmm. Soccer, leading goal scorer, collaboration, risk-taking, and growth and a #G2Great chat. All 10 of the asset-based habits in Julie’s book are critical for success in life. All 10 of the asset-based habits are a part of both the personal and professional lives of many authors we have featured on #G2Great chats. All 10 of the asset-based habits are a part of my life and those of many of my friends and my own thought partners.
It would be very easy to say,
“Go read the book,”
because it’s an amazing, thoughtful book that will provide guidance when you didn’t even know that you needed any further elaboration for some of the habits. But I can guarantee that Julie’s explanations and examples will allow you to dig deeper in EVERY single habit that you may believe you already excel in!
How can I make that guarantee? It’s a combination of my experience, my skills and years of personally working with and learning from Julie. Without doing the math and trying to count years, I can tell you that I’ve learned in a variety of settings with Julie including large groups of over 100, smaller leadership groups and 1:1 meetings whether they were face to face or via Zoom. And then I’ve also learned even more from her books and her participation in Twitter chats. Personally biased? Yes. Personal knowledge? Yes. I learn from Julie every time we have a conversation! She’s a thought partner/ thought neighbor whether near or far!
This blog post is going to be unlike any others that I’ve written for Literacy Lenses. I’ve included “process” many times, but not to the extent you will find here.
We’re going to continue with Julie’s purposes for writing this book as well as her hopes and dreams for all the readers in the next section with the three yellow headers and our basic author questions.
What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?
When schools need to trim budgets, coaches are often the first to be cut. Or, they remedy the budget by reducing coaching time and giving coaches dual roles of classroom teacher and coach. While I think these are missteps for the district, I understand why it happens. When I’m working in a school as the coach of coaches or instructional leaders, I urge them to build systems and structures that can withstand budget swings. One of those is giving the natural school leaders—the people they rely on such coaches, department chairs, PLC facilitators, team leaders— the tools to support ongoing professional learning. Creating thinking partnerships across a learning community is key. That’s because every student deserves to have a teacher who has a thinking partner—this work is too complicated and important to go at it alone!
What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?
There are a few key take-aways from my book that I hope educators will embrace:
1. Having an asset-based stance—grabbing the good that lives across the learning community—brings JOY and SUSTAINABILITY to this work. No one shows up to be picked apart, worn down or fixed. Teachers show up to do good. If we start with assets and then ask teachers what they want to get smarter about, we can help lift that work by providing support. This stance works for all ages of learners, adults and students alike.
2. Building relationships in our work in schools matters. It really, really, really matters! Don’t shortchange it. It is what builds the good (assets) and shapes culture.
3. A habit is a practice we do regularly. When we land on coaching habits that others can count on, we build consistency and trust. Find your go-to habits (mine are building relationships, co-planning and co-teaching) and then build your coaching routines around them.
What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?
Coaching is a lot like neighboring (reference goes to The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon. It’s all about building relationships, an essential coaching habit that creates opportunities to do things together that we could not otherwise accomplish alone. When we choose to make ourselves available to others in our learning community, it’s more likely that we’ll have time to focus on them. It’s also more likely that we’ll co-create a list of priorities…together!
Everyone has something they can give (teach or show others) and something they can get (learning from others). If we build a learning community that has a constant flow of giving and getting, we all get smarter about the needs and wants of our most important stakeholders—our students. Coaching creates the opportunities to get smarter together, building short and long term capacity along the way.
Typically by now, I and my fellow #G2Great blog post authors have moved on to thoughts from the actual chat in the form of tweets or summaries of big ideas. But this next section is going to share with you some “behind the scenes” #g2great processes from the development of this chat with Julie as an example of our ongoing professional learning.
We (#g2great team) ask our authors to write four questions for the chat. These were Julie’s questions in a simple format with our own first and last question. Remember that you can explore specific responses to the questions in the Wakelet (link) for an overview of this book and topic.
8:35 Q1 Our focus in this chat is on instructional coaching. Reflect on your life experiences. What are your go-to habits for sparking collaboration, risk-taking and growth? What attributes make coaching successful? When has coaching been beneficial for your work? How might you partner with a coach this year?
8:44 Q2 Julie believes every student deserves to have a teacher who has a thinking partner because the work we do in schools is too complicated and dynamic to be done alone. Reflect on your experiences. Who have been your thinking partners and what made your partnership so valuable?
8:53 Q3 In Side-by-Side Instructional Coaching, Julie talks about “sniffing out the good”, using assets as a source of energy, and naming areas that might need a “lift”, or support. We can use both as entry points to get smarter about our work with students. How does or can an asset-based stance shape the work you are doing in schools?
9:03 Q4 This book is written for instructional coaches and anyone interested in or charged with facilitating professional learning—department chairs, team leaders, teachers, curriculum directors, administrators, and others! Julie writes about 10 habits she uses to support professional learning. What habits do you use in your work and why do you use them?
9:11 Q5 Julie shares simple coaching tips that have a powerful impact – things such as “ask I wonder questions”, “listen more than you speak”, and “provide a note catcher for teachers to hold their thinking”. These tidbits honor teachers’ time while also increasing autonomy and agency. What would you add to this list?
9:20 Q6. As you reflect on our chat and the 10 asset-based habits Julie has identified, where will you begin to use this information? Which habit(s) might you strengthen? Which habit(s) require more thoughtful consideration?
One way that you could begin to study Side by Side Instructional Coaching is to study Julie’s quotes and questions with a friend/neighbor. That might be a place where your professional learning could begin.
But Julie didn’t just stop with quotes, questions and responses to our author questions; instead she challenged us with some possibilities that we could explore.
I share these ideas with you to give you ideas (straight from Julie) on ways that you might USE this book to extend your own professional conversations around coaching.
PD Option 1
This book is broken into 3 sections: Preparing to Coach, Coaching, and Extending Coaching.
To prepare to coach, Julie suggests developing relationships, communicating plans to stakeholders and defining beliefs. How do you use one or more of these habits to create conditions for successful coaching?
During coaching, Julie focuses on designing goals, co-planning, co-teaching, and creating tracks to showcase evidence of growth. How do you use one or more of these habits to examine curricula, plan with teachers / teams and shape pedagogy?
Julie extends coaching with reflection, building capacity, and prioritizing across the year. How do you use these habits to grow the skills of the teachers/teams to stay focused on their important work?
email from Julie Wright
If you work with a group of coaches or folks who have some coaching responsibilities, how might the questions in Option One inform your work before, during and after coaching opportunities. How might the answers to the questions further define your work? How might your curiosity and joy combine to create deeper collaboration, risk-taking, and growth?
Julie shared her thoughts about the applicability of the contents for all content areas and we are delighted that Benchmark made sure this book title was inclusive of all content areas!
Or you might intentionally consider PD Option 2: “We could hyper focus on a few habits specifically.”
Focus on Beliefs (just one example)
One asset-based coaching habit is to use teachers’ beliefs as an entry point into the work. Select a topic—purpose of education, learning, assessment, balanced literacy, classroom libraries, or play-based experiences and share one of your beliefs. Then, we can see how our collective thinking around beliefs inspires and grows new ideas. I believe _____________.
One asset-based coaching habit is to use teachers’ beliefs as an entry point into the work. Julie works alongside teachers to select a topic as the focus. You can select a topic such as education, learning, assessment, balanced literacy, classroom libraries, play-based experiences, and so on. Let’s pick a topic and see how our collective thinking around beliefs inspires and grows new ideas. Name a belief you have about play-based experiences? I believe _____________.
[we could swap this out for classroom libraries or another one if you prefer]
Deepening Your Understanding
With this book, you have many choices of future actions. Do you increase your own capacity by working with a “thought partner” or a “neighbor” as you read and reflect? Or you could study the questions that we began with in the #G2Great chat and consider the responses from Julie Wright and all the participants. You could also choose to try out option 1 or option 2 above. This book is so inviting that you can begin with any of the “before, during, or after categories” or the individual 10 habits.
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.
The ball is in your court.
How will you increase your own effectiveness?
Where will you begin?
Find that thought partner and start collaborating. Your only mistake would be to NOT take up the challenge to begin reading and thinking with my esteemed colleague, Julie Wright, the very minute that you open this book. You, your students, and your colleagues will benefit from your learning collaboration. The time is NOW to get started with your very own “WE approach” to collaboration, risk-taking, and growth!
For a record of the chat please check out the wakelet archive here
I sit in the car for my 30-minute drive on the highway to my first teaching position. Part-time in a Grade 3 classroom. I was welcomed by the most incredible group of veteran teachers. Wonderfully kind ladies with 30+ years of experience each planning to teach until they couldn’t anymore. Walking in fresh out of University I had big ideas and plans. They wanted me to follow their binders. Teach with fidelity to the things they had always done. I opted to follow my heart. I remember the incredible things that little group of 8 year olds did. I remember as I sat and told them about my dear friend and mentor who had just lost her friend to a terrible tragedy. I remember these little faces tell me that we needed to do something. So we started the Familiar Stranger Initiative and the whole class ran around doing kind acts for others, including kids on the playground. We even wrote a picture book together. That first year and the years that followed shaped who I am now. No longer an elementary teacher but still reading picture books with my students, still in awe of the brilliance they display.
This week the #g2great chat was honored to welcome Patrick Harris II to lead us in a reflective discussion inspired by thoughts from his beautiful new book The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers. As the chat opened we were inspired by Patrick’s own words.
Reflection is such an important piece of the work that we do. Teachers who joined the chat shared some of their reflections about the advice they might give new teachers based on their own experiences.
One theme that comes out of Patrick’s work is the importance of looking at students and teachers as people first. As the world of education seems to be pulled away from unique, autonomous work and towards conformity and standardization Patrick reminds us of the importance to resist this pull and the WHY that is so important.
As we continued to chat the idea of inspiration came up. Why did you become a teacher? Who acted as your inspiration? As teachers read The First Five I believe they will find inspiration for themselves. As Mary Howard states,
So many teachers shared their inspiration. Family members, neighbors, and teachers who impacted them.
Magic. I think as we all look at what we hope to do as teachers Patrick’s words above really encapsulate it. We hope to make Magic in a single room. For each of our students. The question though is how? How can we create that space? What do we need to do to ensure that the space we help create with our students is one of Magic?
One word. Trust. The key to unlocking change. Trust that folks are working for the best of students. Trust that we can ask for help and support and it will come. Trust in parents that they are doing the best they can. Trust in colleagues that they are doing the same. Trust that an offer to help is extended with sincerity.
The world of education is a bumpy one right now but all we need to push back the dark is a little light. Patrick’s words serve as more than just a little light. His humanity is all over this inspiring book. As many of us are starting our school year soon or already have it can seem pretty hopeless. Leaning into the support of our friends and colleagues. Trust each other and look for those willing to support. They are out there and some of them are writing beautiful books.
In closing with much thanks to Patrick, here are some of his words.
This post is dedicated to all the losers out there. Those of us who listen to interior voices that whisper,
“not good enough”
by Jenn Hayhurst
August 11, 2022 was my #G2Great homecoming marking return after an extended absence from Twitter. Mary, who is extremely kind and wise, suggested that I write this blog post since our topic was: Affording Ourselves Professional Grace & Space In Challenging Times. Maybe it was fate, a topic that was heavy on my mind, as schools reopen across the country happened to be the one that would welcome my return to #G2Great. Seneca once said, “Fate leads the willing and drags along the unwilling.” If this is true, then call me a happy follower.
During my time away from social media, I learned three important lessons that I have to share with others who find themselves in need of both “grace” and “space” during these challenging times:
#1 Value Friendships
This may seem like an obvious one, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s easy to take even your closest friends for granted. Another thing to consider; sometimes, when we are stressed, we surround ourselves with “friends” who may not be the best choices. So take stock in your friendships by asking: “What support are my friends giving me? How are they helping?” And then, “Am I being a good friend in return?”
I put out a call inviting friends prior to the chat. I wanted to touch base with my friends who spread positivity and brilliance:
It is my happiness to share and promote all the good work these remarkable humans are contributing to the world right now:
@juliewright4444’s beautiful new @BenchmarkEdu book
#2 Be Present
When times get rough, it is so easy to start chasing worrisome thoughts. Then, inevitably, a myriad of distractions set in causing us to lose focus. Aimlessly scrolling online looking for solutions for what to teach tomorrow. When really, the answers we seek are being revealed to us every day by the children we teach.
Whatever, you are doing: teaching a lesson, serving in a committee, or joining a Twitter Chat, be present:
This one goes out to our newest teachers, if you are feeling “off balance” during instruction, leaning in means you are learning something. Keep going, reflect and focus on what is happening in the present:
#3 Take Action
So long as we live, there is always a choice. Our actions matter, and either contribute towards positivity or negativity. Sometimes it is a kind gesture:
Sometimes it working towards a vital cause:
During challenging times, do something to contribute towards the “good” because every action matters. Leave a generous invitation to everyone you work with that you are there to help, leave every door open:
In the end, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how we decide to play this game of life. It’s not a spin of a dial, it’s the actions we take, once we consider our options. What example will you set? We are what we do, and what do we think. Really, there is only you and what you believe. What will you decide to let in this school year? This school year, I am opening the door to: being thoughtful about my friends; making a practice of being present by honing my ability to focus; and taking actions that lead towards positive solutions. Let’s get to work, and have a wonderful school year. Never forget you were always enough.
For the archive of the chat please visit the Wakelet here
From the Authors-What motivated them to explore this topic?
It’s not hyperbolic to say that we believe this is the most important work we can be doing right now. As we state in the introduction to our book, Until we get a handle on our own ability to determine what can and can’t be trusted in the information we consume, we stand very little chance of truly confronting the other problems we face as a species.
Without fail every day at the start of my grade 9 class a student will start the day with a “Mr. Gilson, did you hear about [insert topic] and I always ask them to fill me in. The majority of the time the information I get is partly true with a mix of misinformation, disinformation, and a sprinkling of alternative facts. I often times push back, I ask them where they heard this partly true thing. More often than not it is social media: some TikTok video or a snippet of Fox News or MSNBC that has been edited and crafted to tell a different story than the one intended. When I try to illustrate the gaps in information or the outright false information they are repeating, they are often skeptical of me.
I don’t remember this problem growing up. We had newspapers and new programs with trusted anchors that were just there to give us the news. It seems as technology increases and attention spans decrease those responsible to get information to the masses have adopted the mindset of entertainment is better than education. This model has dire impact on our students and schools as students are faced with a sea of information. I think about the scene in Alan Gratz’s Refugee when Mahmoud discovers that the life jackets his family purchased were fakes. They looked alright but when needed could not keep someone from drowning. Without the proper support, our students will drown in this sea of information in the time of fake news, misdirection, and flat-out lies that fill our news cycles. Students need tools to navigate these seas and this week the G2Great team was so grateful to welcome Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins to discuss their work Developing Digital Detectives.
From the Authors- What do you hope are the BIG Takeaways for teachers to embrace after reading your book?
Technology has evolved at an exponential pace in the last few decades, but guess what hasn’t evolved very much at all in that time? The human brain. Mis-, Dis- and Mal- information are problems rooted in human behavior, which means the solutions to those problems can be found there, too!
As the chat began participants reflected on the importance of Information Literacy, the ability to discern the Mis- Dis- and Mal- information from the truth.
As teachers reflected two pieces that stood out to me particularly were those of Christie Nold and Jennifer herself. The idea that so much of the book banning conversations are fuelled by this twisting of the truth and purposeful misrepresentation to cause fear is something I think needs more attention.
Additionally Christie’s point regarding the use of misinformation as a recruiting tool. Praying on our youth as a means to further the hateful agenda of white supremacy.
Next, the chat covered strategies for how to deal with information that triggers an emotional response.
We might help students to look at the information presented to them with a lens of thoughtful reflection rather than jumping to the idea that we disagree and therefore it must not be true. To analyze things we need to take time. Too often even adults, when faced with something they disagree with, turn off their ability to process and just look for reasons it is wrong. This inability to really look at information makes it even more difficult to maneuver to find the truth. If adults struggle with it and have years of experience how can we expect our students to do so without support?
One very common concern that often comes up in classrooms is the “dreaded” smartphone. Schools have policies that police how/when/if students can have phones out. Students, in my experience, need support in how to leverage their phones to be the tools for learning that they have the potential to be. While considerations like access need to be considered, when used well smartphones can be powerful learning tools. This year I had students making movies for projects with only their phones. Apps designed to be powerful learning tools are readily available if teachers simply put aside that need for control and help students see how useful our phones can be.
These are troubling times when forces that mean to do harm have learned how to weaponize information and the internet to spread misinformation and hate. Our students are spending more and more time in these waters and without the proper education on how to discern fact from fiction we are putting kids in harm’s way.
Developing Digital Detectives provides us with the tools and language to help our students navigate these waters. We need to prioritize this instruction in our classrooms so that our students are prepared for the world at their fingertips. Literally.
The G2Great team is grateful to all who participated this week in the chat and especially to Jennifer and Darren for leading this discussion and sharing their expertise.
From the Authors- What do you hope teachers can take to heart after the chat?
News, Media and Information literacy can’t be treated as an “add on” or something we do during “advisory” periods when time allows. We must find ways to embed these skills across content areas and grade spans. Our kids, our communities, indeed our world, are depending on us to prioritize this work.
Developing Digital Detectives: Essential Lessons for Discerning Fact From Fiction in the “Fake News” Era by Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins
Our monthly newsletter. It’s free and is organized into 5 sections: Explore (one resources to explore). Teach (one resource to each). Think (one resource to think about). Follow (one Information Literacy leader to follow). Bort’s Bonus: (something extra that we think people will find useful.
The Evidence Locker comes with a digital repository of well over a hundred resources, activities, etc. Our book is like a cookbook, with all the recipes, and the evidence locker is the pantry – with all the stuff you need to get cooking!
Early in the chat, James Oloo made an observation about AMPLIFY and why it is still an important professional resource even seven years after publication.
While advances in technology have supported our instructional endeavors across the years, we have seen mixed technology results ranging along a spectrum of good, bad and ugly. As Katie and Kristin eloquently remind us in a book that highlights the very best of the “good” in that spectrum, technology should be designed to AMPLIFY what we are already doing in a way that is student-centered and will enhance and support our efforts. On the other hand, we have also seen a dramatic influx of products that turn technology into one-size-fits-all scripts that tether our children to a computer screen and usurp precious minutes that could be spent in far better ways. When marketing ploys for financial gain take priority over the needs of children and our responsibility to meet those needs in meaningful relevant ways, technology has taken a dark turn that is disconcerting. If you have ever wondered which end of the good, bad and ugly spectrum your school or you as a professional falls, please read this wonderful book. You will see technology possibilities along with pitfalls to avoid as you distinguish technology designed to AMPLIFY vs. to CONSTRICT.
Katie and Kristin make this important point in a quote we shared in our chat:
Their words should become a centerpiece that will guide our choices about the WHAT, WHEN, HOW and WHY of technology. Our educational goals of literacy, independence and criticalthinking remain the same whether we use technology or not. If we relinquish these things, technology is not designed to AMPLIFY but to divert our attention away from what matters most. There is no end to the tools that are available to us, but this does not mean that all tools or the way that we view and use them are worthy of children. In other words, technology does not alter our central goals, underlying purpose and deepest innermost beliefs but rather brings those central goals, underlying purpose and deepest innermost beliefs to life in ways that honor the many instructional choices we make in a day whether technology is part of those choices or not. In my mind, this has been the tipping point for technology that is used in responsible and responsive ways and technology that dishonors the day-to-day instruction that occurs in our schools in the name of students.
These tweets from Judy Wallis and Jen&Hannah highlight this point:
Katie and Kristin further elaborate that day-to-day instruction in the name of students in their book, emphasizing that technology can be used to AMPLIFY the strategies that we are already using when technology is not used. There is an invisible thread that connects those strategies in either case.
“Using technology doesn’t mean that we throw out those strategies that we’ve found to be successful with students.”
Technology can and should draw from the strategies and practices that we are already using. It’s not an either/or proposition of using technology or using the strategies when technology is not in use but using technology to merge and celebrate those same strategies and practices in meaningful ways.
We certainly learned this lesson during the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessity to pivot at a moments notice to technology-based teaching. Teachers quickly began to recognize that technology used in thoughtful ways did not require us to abandon what we held dear but did require us to highlight what was most essential in our face-to-face teaching and apply that to technology and the existing available tools that were plentiful. For many teachers, this was an important part of the learning curve, even in the midst of chaos. In many ways, it was a wakeup call to maintain our sights on research-based knowledge that guides our professional decision-making with or without technology.
Judy Wallis and Fran McVeigh share important points:
I’d like to end with this student-centered reminder from kindergarten teacher Mollie Nye. Regardless of the choices we make when it comes to technology, our children are the overarching guide for making those decisions based on their needs at that time. This is not about using technology for the sake of using technology but rather keeping our commitment to always remain steadfast in our belief that we have a responsibility to be responsive to students to the needs of students and keep tat at the center of all we do.
I’d like to reiterate Jame’s Oloo’s tweet I shared at the beginning of this post that AMPLIFY continues to be relevant still today. We are very grateful to Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke for inspiring us yet again with a second look at AMPLIFY.
The Twitterverse was full of inspiration (wakelet archive) June 23rd when Dan Feigelson joined the #G2Great chat to discuss his new book, Radical Listening: Reading and Writing Conferences to Reach All Students. Much importance has been attached to conferences for both reading and writing, but yet it’s an area where many teachers feel unprepared and often anxious or even fearful of conferences. Perhaps these emotions come from personal experiences. Maybe they stem from a lack of knowledge. Or perhaps the anxiety is from a combination of a lack of conferences in their own reading and writing lives and in their own confidence of how to conduct and what to say in those conferences with students.
Let’s begin with fear for just a minute.
Fear: “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger” (Merriam Webster online dictionary)
Common fear responses in schools:
Fight- argue against the importance, minimize the value, close the door and ignore
Flight – leave the situation whether it’s the classroom, building or district
Freeze-do only what one knows, often the minimum and hope no one notices
What do you think of when you hear the word conference? What’s your role? Are you the conferee or the person facilitating the conference? Does it matter?
If just hearing the word “conference” makes you fearful, anxious, or antsy, then you need to explore those feelings. Is it a fear of the unknown? A fear of being less than perfect? A fear of just doing/ or being less than your best?
What will reduce that fear? What will make conferences more “doable”?
In Radical Listening Dan proposes that the goal of reading and writing conferences is to help all students reach their full potential. Practical. Doable. Impactful. Equitable. Dan uses active listening as the focus in conferences where we listen to, learn from, and guide students. Conferences will make sense after reading this resource.
Let’s begin with the questions that the #G2Great team asks all authors.
What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?
In a conference I always try to convey that the child’s thinking is just as important as what the grownup has to say. I may be the one teaching a new skill or strategy, but I can’t do it without pinpointing what would be most meaningful for the individual student in front of me. With this in mind, I try to avoid too much paraphrasing, which can come off as correcting, i.e., the way you said it wasn’t clear enough, so I’m going to say it better. It’s a subtle difference, but naming what the child did – “So you are the sort of reader who really pays attention to how the author wants you to feel” – is more empowering than restating and signals listening just as powerfully.
Dan Feigelson email
Tip: The power of naming what the child says because paraphrasing can be seen as “correcting”
What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?
My hope is that teachers start to see their literacy instruction as two parallel streams. There’s the stuff you have to cover because you are teaching 2nd grade, or 5th, or 8th; the end-year expectations or standards for that age group. But at the same time, there are the things you’ll teach this year to these kids, who no commercial curriculum writer or education official ever met. Apart from the obvious importance of targeting instruction to the individual learner, this also send the message to kids that they can and should be owners of their own learning, and not feel it is something irrelevant which is being thrust upon them against their will.
Dan Feigelson email
Tip: Two parallel streams with the “have to teach items” and “individual learner streams”
What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?
One message, which may feel counter intuitive, is that no matter how far behind a student may be as a reader or writer, it just plain doesn’t work to only ever address their weaknesses. If the subject of your 1:1 teaching interactions is always what the student does least well, she will begin to dread those conversations. We can usually address these things more effectively in partner or group situations, which feel supportive, like we’re-all-in-this-together. Confer to the strength, not the deficit.
The other message, from my heart, is that we should allow ourselves the time and space to be fascinated with the way our students think. It sends a powerful message to them, and just plain makes teaching more fun!
Dan Feigelson email
Tips: 1) Confer to the strength and 2) be fascinated with student thinking
So, why this book? Why this book now?
Democracies of thought when student ideas, noticings, and experiences are honored. What are you honoring with your conferences? What is your intention?
Where do we start? What’s the beginning access point for conferences?
Relationships – Conferences are a place to build relationships.
Conferences benefit the speaker and the listener with radical listening.
2. Listening for “the general in the specific”
Teach the writer not the piece of writing. Teach the reader not the piece being read. What can be taught that will transfer?
3. Use the reciprocity of reading like a writer and writing like a reader to inform conferences
Colleen Cruz’s books are another touchstone. Check out the post about Writers Read Betterhere.
4. Encourage children to go deeper in their thinking “in such a way that it sounds like an invitation rather than a criticism”
Close readers may have noticed that part of that last slide was already in this post but it’s important to note that “paraphrasing can come off as correcting.” Pay close attention to the student’s responses to your few conference words.
5. Invite students to be active participants in their learning through conferences
Conferences need to be a partnership between readers or writers and Radical Listening can help provides some tracking ideas so that each student has the opportunity to maximize their own growth.
In conclusion, there’s no ONE way for conferences to go. Take a deep breath. Think about what makes conferences hard. Plan your structure. Explore your options. Prepare. The teaching in conference should build on previous instruction. Conferences are where your students will stretch and grow as long as you remember to reach the reader or writer – not “fixing” the current work or focus of the students. Radical listening is definitely a great resource for student conferences; it’s an even better resource for teacher learning.
Radical Listening: Reading and Writing Conferences to Reach All Students (2022, School Library Journal)
On 6/16/22, #G2Great welcomed first time guest host, Dr. Peter Afflerbach as we explored his remarkable new book, TeachingReaders (Not Reading): Moving Beyond Skills and Strategies to Reader-Focused Instruction (2022, The Guilford Press). We knew that his message would inspire critical conversations, so we weren’t surprised when fast-paced twitter style discourse reached a fever pitch with the first question. With the all-too common push and pull in our schools positioning the Reading before the Reader, these conversations are needed more than ever, as reflected in a pre-chat quote:
Dr. Afflerbach repeated this issue in his book introduction and conclusion:
“It is time to focus on all of the factors that influence reading development, to examine their power, to understand their relationships, and to realize their promise in nurturing accomplished and enthusiastic readers. It’s time for teaching readers.” (page 4 & 161)
Yes, it is time; in fact that time is long overdue. It’s time for us to widen our perspective and reposition our priorities from the READING to the READER to ensure that our readers do not get lost in the mix of curriculum mandates, standardized testing and a narrowed lens of “The Science of Reading” that suggests the flawed view that there is a single science that has all the answers. Peter Afflerbach shared his thoughts on this subject during our chat.
In his book, Teaching Readers (Not Reading) and generous sharing during our chat, he offers wisdom and research we need in order to understand and reverse the current focus from Reading to Reader. This book is needed more than ever as we are asked embrace the depth and breadth of all of the “sciences of reading” as reflected in this chat tweet.
In each of our #G2great book chats, we ask our guest authors to respond to three questions. We know that understanding the thinking and motivation that went into writing the book we are celebrating can offer insight that will support and extend our thinking at deeper levels. Let’s begin with the first question:
What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?
I wrote this book to push back on the idea that there is a single “science of reading.” Across my experiences with teaching readers, I’ve understood that reading strategies and skills are essential for our students’ reading success. I’ve also learned that strategies and skills are not all that our developing student readers need. They need motivation and engagement, self-efficacy, metacognition and self-regulation, healthy attributions and epistemic development. Each of these represents “science,” and each should be given full consideration as we teach readers.
I’ve taught and researched readers for over 40 years—my first position was as a K-6 reading specialist in a small rural school in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Since then, I’ve taught middle school remedial reading and high school English. I’ve directed 2 university reading clinics where practicing teachers are working toward Masters’ certification as reading specialists. And, for the past 3 decades, I researched reading comprehension strategies. I can certainly testify to the importance of strategy and skill, but I know that the thousands of children I’ve worked with need more than strategies and skills to become lifelong, successful readers.
From day one of my first year of teaching, I’ve been interested (and fascinated) by the complexity of factors that influence our students’ reading development and achievement. Our most accomplished teachers know these factors well, and make sure that instruction regularly addresses students’ need for metacognition, motivation and engagement, and self-efficacy. The research on the relationship between these factors and reading development is conclusive—they must be operating for children to reach their potential.
It’s in this era of learning more about the essential nature of metacognition, motivation and engagement, and self-efficacy that we must confront the idea that there is a single “science of reading,” and that effective strategy and skill instruction is all that our students need to thrive as readers. Remember that the research cited in the Report of the National Reading Panel is a quarter-century old, and that the NRP was constrained in terms of the research that was included. I’m a teacher, and I’m a scientist who has contributed to the strategy and skill literature. I like to think that most sciences continually evolves and that over the past 25 years we should expect to have new insights into reading, how it develops and how best to teach readers. There’s the rub—we know the power of these “other” factors, including motivation and engagement, metacognition and self-efficacy—but they are not regularly acknowledged by a majority of states and school districts, rarely acknowledged by the popular media, not included in most reading curricula and not evaluated by our high stakes assessments. A result is the vast, missed opportunity to further foster students’ reading development.
In another tweet during our chat discussion, Peter Afflerbach sets the stage for drawing from all of the sciences that matters in teaching the reader beyond a mere skills and strategies perspective:
In his book, Peter Afflerbach details this relevant research by devoting an entire chapter to each of these “SCIENCES” of reading that have long taken a back seat in schools that preference a narrow view. Each research-proven chapter reflects the heart of those “sciences” and support our next step efforts:
Let’s pause to turn back to our Twitter chat discussion. We opened our chat with a question that focused on the title of the book, so I’d like share some of the amazing twitter responses, including three from Peter Afflerbach:
QUESTION 1: Teaching Readers (not Reading)
Before we begin our chat, Peter Afflerbach’s title is an invitation for a reflective pause. What do the words “Teaching Readers (Not Reading)” mean to you? What can schools do to support a collective shift in thinking?
Just imagine the benefits that could rise by posing this very question as we provide opportunities for them to engage in a discussion of the distinctions between these two viewpoints followed by a book study using Peter Afflerbach’s Teach Readers (Not Reading). Now imagine extending that discussion to what this looks like from each side with pictorial evidence shared by teachers on a visible display that represents an instructional shift to the Reader (Not Reading).
Now let’s look at Peter Afflerbach’s response to our second question:
What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?
A first, BIG hoped-for takeaway is for teachers to be affirmed in their views of students as complex people, with diverse combinations of characteristics—including but not limited to strategy and skill. A second takeaway is that our instruction should be broad-based, of course informed by research, and certainly not limited to the current and quite narrow conceptualization of the “science of reading.” There are “sciences of reading” (emphasis on the plural!) and we should consult these sciences when creating instruction and building classroom environments conducive to student growth. A third takeaway is that the details of how we promote motivation and engagement, how we teach and foster metacognition, and how we help build self-efficacy—a belief is self as a reader—are included in dedicated chapters within the book. A final takeaway is that there is the overriding demand for research-based reading instruction, so let’s make sure we consult all relevant research!
With the ”more complete portrait of the student as reader” in mind, I’d like to share some new thinking that we would need to consider before change is even possible. Since there’s no way to do justice to extensive detail Dr. Afflerbach has given us in his book, my goal here is simply to spotlight responsibility to this process as professionals. They key ideas are meant only as a starting point to a long-term process that includes a deep study of Teaching Readers (Not Reading):
• Begin by acknowledging the collective impact of these shifts in thinking
• Critically examine the existing resources that may be derailing our efforts
• Ensure that we preference teacher efficacy above programs that dictate
• Re-envision professional learning in place of professional development
• Support professional learning along the way through expert coaching
• Trust knowledgeable teachers who know the child as key decision-maker
• Take a good look at what our actions reflect that we value as informants
• See and know children through an individual vs one-size-fits all lens
• Support collegial discourse that will celebrate our children from all angles
• Push back a focus on THE science and widen our discussions to SCIENCES
Before I share my final thoughts, let’s look at Peter Afflerbach’s response to our third question:
What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?
Learning to read is hard for some students and easy for others. Regardless of the path a student takes to becoming a successful and independent reader, it’s so important to understand each of the factors that influence progress. Our understanding of these factors improves our instruction and supports our students. Reading strategies and skills are always essential for reading development and reading achievement. So too are metacognition, motivation and engagement and self-efficacy.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Every person reading this post, our tweet artifact, and Peter Afflerbach’s book has long experienced the issues that are creating an environment where we are moved further from the READER and ever closer to the READING. Those who know the research and have made an investment in their ongoing professional learning know that our attention on Teaching the Reader (Not the Reading) is too often pushed into other directions. This is exacerbated by the pandemic fueled “Learning Loss Narrative” that has caused a narrowing of the literacy playing field and further motivated a preoccupation with raising test rather than raising readers. Couple this tragic perception gaining traction with our ongoing love affair with programs that promise speedy miracle cures and we find ourselves pushed further into a narrow field. With all of these forces at play, our Readers are taking a backseat in as the Reading remains front and center. As a result, a checklist of skills and strategies that can be dutifully checked off with pride are moving us closer to curriculum driven rather than reader-centered teaching.
We know what to do and Peter Afflerbach provides us with both the research and a pathway for reprioritizing our attention on all of the factors that will help us to focus on Teaching the Reader (Not Reading). This is not just about plugging these factors into a lockstep schedule. Rather it is about understanding how each of the “sciences” work in concert and in support of each others. This means that we must avoid viewing them in terms of a single “lesson” but what we do across the entire learning day in every aspect of the curriculum. But first we must loosen the ties that bind. As long as we continue to hold a death grip on programs and narrow prescribed curriculum that preferences a single science and ignore others that are critical to the success of our readers, we will continue to do a great disservice to the READERS who are depending on us.
We are so grateful to Dr. Peter Afflerbach for sharing his vast wisdom on our #G2Great chat. We know that his thinking will inspire much needed change.
The remaining Q2 to Q6 questions with Dr. Afflerback responses are below. His thinking here and in his book offer a guide that will support our change process.
QUESTION 2: Teaching Readers (not Reading)
Do you believe that current reading instruction reflects the breadth and depth of our knowledge of how students’ reading develops? What explains the phenomenon of understanding reading development broadly, but teaching reading narrowly?
QUESTION 3: Teaching Readers (not Reading)
From a developmental perspective, what else matters for student reading success besides strategies and skills?
QUESTION 4: Teaching Readers (not Reading)
Should the research influencing reading instruction be labeled the “science of reading” or the “sciences of reading?” Explain your response.
QUESTION 5: Teaching Readers (not Reading)
Describe the importance of motivation and engagement for student reader success. How do you ensure that motivation and engagement is a central feature of your instructional efforts?
QUESTION 6: Teaching Readers (not Reading)
Peter Afflerbach writes, “… our vision of students’ reading development and of the important outcomes of our reading instruction is constrained by what we look for. (p. 34) What varied student-centered understandings help you to broaden your vision?
Formative assessment is integral to responsive teaching-in-action, which depends on carefully observing, listening, and supporting students so that students remain engaged, inquisitive, and learn more. That is, in the act of teaching, based on our observations and students’ responses and actions–and in our reflections before and after–we modify, adjust, and revise our teaching to better meet students’ strengths, interests, and needs. Successfully integrating formative assessments into meaningful instruction is often what separates a teacher who struggles from one who can aptly handle any situation. Regie Routman
Responsive Kidwatching illustrates and celebrates the influential impact of professional decision-making and invites us to gather varied in-the-moment observations so that we may engage in “responsive teaching-in-action.” What we learn from students immersed in the learning process offers the informants that will support the choices we make on their behalf as we “modify, adjust, and revise our teaching to better meet students’ strengths, interests, and needs.” In this way, we teach with a lens on students who are squarely at the center of our efforts and acknowledge our responsibility to address their unique needs in meaningful, purposeful and intentional ways. Without our commitment to remain “responsive” to students within the kidwatching process, it will be just one more empty educational term on the battlegrounds of failed efforts.
So, now let’s shift our focus on kidwatching with meaning, purpose and intent.
In each #G2Great chat, we craft six questions around our weekly topic that will guide our discussion. The focus of our six questions this week is shown above. Certainly, each discussion focus is important, but the three highlighted questions are critical entry points. Until we reach agreement about what we mean by kidwatching, have a strong sense of perspective about our role, and can verbalize our central purpose, we are doomed to dishonor the very heart of kidwatching from the onset and reduce it to yet another barely recognizable research-supported practice devoid of value.
KIDWATCHING QUESTION #1: DEFINITION
Our first chat question will determine the very success or failure of kidwatching. How we understand and define kidwatching directly impacts how we approach and ultimately implement Responsive Kidwatching in a way that will reflect intent. What better way to do that than to draw from two experts on the topic, Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman who eloquently define Kidwatching in their influential book, Kidwatching: Documenting Children’s Literacy by (2002, Heinemann)
The primary goal of kidwatching is to support and gain insight into children’s learning by
(1) intensely observing and documenting what they know and can do;
(2) documenting their ways of construction and expressing knowledge; and
(3) planning curriculum and instruction that are tailored to individual strengths and needs. (page x)
Responsive kidwatching is dependent upon all three of these features since they work in support of the kidwatching process. One cannot work in a vacuum as they are complementary. It’s worth emphasizing that we do not engage in kidwatching because it’s the hot topic of the day or required based on a district or program mandate but because we understand what it is and what it looks like in practice so deeply that we are compelled to make it an integral part of every learning day.
#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #1
KIDWATCHING QUESTION #2: PERSPECTIVE
To honor a strong commitment to kidwatching means putting it into action in the context of teaching and learning and for the purpose of enhancing the choices we make for the sake of student learning. Kidwatching isn’t what is merely scheduled into an obligatory blip on the radar screen of the week if we have time, but a process that we willingly find a place of honor for in each learning day.
When we are dedicated kidwatchers, we observe students while they engage as active participants in the learning process with a curious spirit that drives us to understand who those children are, how they learn and how their identity as a learner and human impacts that learning. This curiosity drives us to know and understand more through close observation, a process Carol Ann Tomlinson aptly refers to as “sleuthing” in So They May Soar: The Principles and Practices of Learner-Centered Classrooms (2021, ASCD)
Consistent, persistent moment-by-moment teacher watchfulness of students as they learn. (p. 150)
What kind of mindset brings this to bear? One of my favorite pages in Kidwatching by Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman is wisely positioned on the first page with a beautiful list of statement about what drives their kidwatching beliefs. Each statement begins with the words: I am the teacher who… Just imagine how we would merge our beliefs about the teaching/learning process and our beliefs about Kidwatching in this way. What would that look like? Why are we doing it? What beliefs drive those efforts? We wondered about that too and so we turned this wondering into the basis of our second question that our chat friends responded to eloquently :
#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #2
Just imagine what thinking we might not only uncover but discover from a collective perspective if we posed this question based on what each individual brings to the instructional process since kidwatching is an essential part of what we all can and should do:
I am the principal who…
I am the teacher who…
I am the coach who…
I am the support staff who…
I am the interventionist who…
KIDWATCHING QUESTION #3: PERSPECTIVE
One of my favorite descriptors about kidwatching is from Kenneth Goodman so we used his words in question 3:
“To REVALUE is to notice and build on what learners can do, and to help them value and reflect on the knowledge they have.” Kenneth Goodman
What I particularly love about Kenneth Goodman’s words is the emphasis on focusing on the strengths children bring to the learning process and making them privy to those strengths as a pathway to new learning. The process of REVALUE directly contrasts to the ever present “learning loss” narrative that asks us to focus our attention on what we purport that children are unable to do. In contrast, Goodman asks us to gaze through an appreciative lens to uncover what they are already doing to use that as a stepping stone to next step efforts.
When we capture those noticings, we elevate in the moment observations over time as a reference to support and extend new thinking. Putting kidwatching onto a concrete written tool of our choice allows us to hold on to what we heard, saw and think. This also allows us to look across days at collective noticings where patterns to emerge that impact our professional choices in actionable ways no just on a particular day but across days. This visible reference could also highlight whether what we are focusing our attention on REvaluing or DEvaluing what children bring to the learning experience. We knew that this question was an important part of our chat discussion and our chat friends did not disappoint.
#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #5
The practice of responsive kidwatching is more important than ever in an age where we find our schools and questionable publishers that cater to them hyper fixated on that “learning loss” narrative that is far removed from the spirit of kidwatching. Couple this with a never-ending obsession with standardized tests that label children in ways that lead to impersonal directives, and we find ourselves caught in the perfect ‘data storm’. Rigid curriculum and numerical-fueled assessments connected to them have slowly confiscated common sense and de-emphasized up close and personal professional observation as a key informant. Several principals have illustrated a common misconception to me that reflects how kidwatching has been reduced to an irrelevant sacrificial lamb by referring to any form of teacher observation as “opinion.” This ill-informed perspective is a blatant misconception rooted in other-focused directives that ignore the spirit of kidwatching and shamefully disregards the impact of our educators who are committed to research informed understandings.
Our children rely on teachers who bring knowledge to the teaching/learning table over blind faith in numbers without a face. And they rely on us to use RESPONSIVE KIDWATCHING to model our belief in all the wonderful thinking our childrem bring to the learning process. Dedicated kidwatchers believe that the on-the-spot actions of children in the course of each learning day tell us far more than any number on a spreadsheet ever could.
It’s time to make a collective re-commitment to kidwatching and ensure that it’s a visible feature in every classroom in every school. And so I want to close with a wonderful question that Janelle Henderson posed in her incredible post, Will the Real Data Please Stand UP:
Just imagine the collective commitment to kidwatching this would invite!