Tapping Into Teacher Empowerment

by Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to view the Wakelet

How do we tap into teacher empowerment? This is a question that I have thought about for a long time. It has been my experience that empowered teachers draw on knowing the curriculum, having an understanding for child development, and a knack for setting attainable goals with students that help their students recognize their own inner stores of power, but I wondered what other teachers had to say on the matter. On September 16, 2021 #G2Great began a conversation about tapping into teacher empowerment, and after reading through the Wakelet it became clear to me that GROWING A CULTURE around empowerment is really the next frontier. 

What if we actively created a culture that was built around teacher empowerment in school?  I imagine that it might be like this, teachers come to school believing that their thoughts and decisions will make a positive impact on the collective good. Every faculty member would know that their expertise would be held in the highest esteem.  From where I stand, teaching is already the best career there is and if it were possible to work in a culture that tapped into teacher empowerment, it would be life changing for our profession and our students.  That is something worth fighting for, and here are some ways we can begin to make a shift towards tapping into (a culture) of teacher empowerment.

Listen to Teachers

Building a school wide belief system stems from an ongoing conversation about how students learn best. Once we have that vision, we can begin to align our beliefs and we can promote a shared voice in the materials that we put into the classroom. One way to promote ownership is to let teachers decide what kinds of materials reflect the shared vision.  Teacher autonomy would stem from having a voice and choice about classroom libraries, based on the needs of their classrooms.

Promote Intellectual Curiosity

It is a goal of many to take a student centered approach to teaching and learning. It is also important  to extend that same stance for professional learning for teachers. Having choice in the kind of professional learning that is received is very empowering.  We need to follow the teacher lead when it comes to learning because each teacher has a different need. Peer facilitated coaching is another way to promote empowerment because having the freedom to visit a colleague and learn collectively is the kind of on the job training that promotes professional growth while tapping into teacher expertise.

Take Action Through Agency

The culture of school does not always jive with the concept of agency. There are so many tasks teachers are asked to complete at school that suck up time and effort. Our focus becomes a checklist of “have to’s” rather than time spent cultivating the craft of teaching. It is hard to feel inspired to take action when obligatory duties take over.  We can strive to make this better. Everyone has to submit lesson plans, but rather than  submitting lesson plans prior to the lesson, submit them after with teacher reflections written in the margins. This encourages deeper reflection while giving administration a better view of what is happening in the classroom.  What went well? What failed? What did you learn? Innovative solutions are out there, let’s devote time and energy to making it happen.

Begin Good Conversations

One tenant of #G2Great is that we believe we move from “good work” to “great work”  in the classroom  (Howard 2012) when we continue to read and act on professional learning. A school culture that embraces a teacher’s desire to learn and try something new is one that is made to tap into teacher empowerment.  Every week, I learn so much from the teachers I work with and the teachers I know through social media. Risk would be a badge of honor, a marker of courageous learners who are trying to outgrow themselves. This would be a culture that would be worthy of the students we teach everyday. 

Never Lose Sight of What is Possible

The culture we live in school is in some part a reflection of ourselves. What if? Two common words that have an uncommon ability to power real change. If you find yourself wanting more, and dream of tapping into your own sense of empowerment; don’t wait, you can make the difference.

Weeding Misguided and Harmful Practices: Behavior Management (Second in the Series)

By Jenn Hayhurst

Click Here for WakeLet

I love a good series. To me, a series of Twitter chats is sort of like binge-watching a favorite Netflix show… I just can’t get enough! Our latest series, Weeding Harmful and Misguided Practices doesn’t disappoint. It is so relevant and meaningful because it suggests there is always room to grow. This is especially true when it comes to behavior management, it is critical to try to get it right. What better way to do this than to have a good conversation with smart and dedicated teachers? On February 6, 2020, #G2Great held the second of a five-part series on Weeding Misguided and Harmful Practices Behavior Management.

Do No Harm…

We teach because we hope to make a positive impact on our students’ lives. What is better than making meaningful contributions toward students’ social and academic growth? However, relationships come first and shame is a barrier to forming relationships. Instead of viewing behavior as something to manage, view it as formative data. What does this student need? Showing students that we have their interests at heart is the better way. A strong teacher-student relationship is formed by inter-personal connetions and not charts and clips.

Clear Responsibility…

As I read over these tweets I find myself nodding and smiling. We are teaching children how to live and be in the world. When we take a moment to pause and manage ourselves when life in the classroom gets stressful we are modeling how to deal with complex emotions like stress, anxiety, confusion or even disappointment. What better way to teach students how to better manage their feelings and actions? As we do this work together, teachers and students, we are co-creating safe learning environments and that is what we really want for our kids, isn’t it? We can be the teachers they can depend on. The teachers who lead with empathy and compassion. Yes, this is what behavior management can look like.

Let’s keep a good thing going. We hope you will join us next week

The Right Tools, Towanda Harris #G2Great

By, Jenn Hayhurst

Access to Wakelet by clicking here.

Disclaimer Alert: I Love Tools!

It’s true, I have a soft spot for tools. From my earliest memories, I have loved working with tools. My father would invite me into his garage and would marvel at the hooks and draws and bins full of useful devices that could help a person get any job done. My love for tools has remained constant, just the other day I inventoried my kitchen tools to assess which ones were most useful. I love tools because they help us to perform at higher levels, to be more independent, and to feel empowered to make a change. Tools make my teacher’s heart sing.

Needless to say, when Towanda Harris agreed to join our #G2Great community… I was VERY enthusiastic! On August 15, 2019, Towanda Harris initiated a discussion stemming from her beautiful new book, so aptly named, The Right Tools, that I believe, will be a book teachers will use and love.

Instructional tools offer a pathway towards active learning and aides for assessment for our students. They are mediators engender high levels of engagement and support. So, why aren’t we all using tools on a regular basis? Towanda, spoken like the true teacher puts it simply,

Today, we often find ourselves facing a dizzying array of materials and resources, whether they be a box of dusty skills cards handed down from a retiring teacher a professional book passed on by a colleague, a unit plan saved from a previous year, a teacher’s manual found in the back of a storage cabinet, a procedure recommended by a supervisor, a program required by a district, a book reviewed on a blog, a set of activi- ties discussed on Twitter, a chart found on Pinterest, a unit downloaded from a website, or a strategy highlighted in a brochure or an email. But how do we know which of these will help the children in our classrooms? How do we find helpful new resources without squandering funding or instructional time?

Towanda Harris, The Right Tools, xii Introduction

How do we begin? This post is dedicated to beginning the process.

I feel so privileged to share the voices of the #G2Great community. Thank you for sharing your expertise so that we may grow our understandings of this important topic.

Having well-defined criteria for what tools are brought into the classroom is an important first step. When developing a criterion, we begin as Towanda suggests, with clarity for the tool’s “purpose” so they may meet students where they are. While Travis reminds us to consider the appeal of tools, is they “kid-centric” if kids don’t like them they won’t use them. Mollie brings us back to basics as she reminds us to keep tools grounded in authentic opportunities for use. Sonja comes at tools from another perspective, when she tweeted that the best tools are flexible ones that “bend.” So true!

Tools offer teachers opportunities to be responsive to students needs. Faige, adds her voice to the conversation as she explains that criteria for tools cannot be set unless teachers have time to observe the students who are in the room, she invites us to consider students’ “interests, needs, and strengths”. Towanda echos this truth as she perks our attention to knowing “learning styles” so we may avoid that “one size fits all” mentality that becomes a roadblock for a successful transfer to independent use. As always, Mary brings the discussion back home, as she implores us to be “honest” in our estimation of tried and true tools we love as educators. We have to always be reflective to make sure we really do have the right tool for the job. Laura, says it best I think when it comes down to the underpinning for criteria for tools, “Students are criteria” Know your students first, then develop or offer the tools they need to be successful.

This post offers just a snapshot of the conversation we had about tools. I do encourage you to go to the archive if you missed the chat. It is a treasure trove of ideas that could spark a meaningful discourse for any Professional Learning Community, (PLC).

On behalf of my #G2Great team, I’d like to thank Dr. Towanda Harris for joining us for this meaningful discussion. Teachers everywhere are organizing and getting their resources together to kick off the school year. With books like, “The Right Tools” in hand they will get closer to “great practice”, and that is what teaching from a learning stance is really all about.

Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process & Product

By, Jenn Hayhurst

On June 27, 2019 #G2Great hosted the chat, Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process and Product. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations, and I think there is more to this topic than meets the eye. I mean on the surface, a celebration is a good time and that is certainly a motivator. Dig a little deeper, examine what is being celebrated, and we get a sense of collective identity, what is believed, what is valued within a community.

What if schools cultivated a day-to-day celebratory spirit when it comes to learning? That would mean, celebrations that were not just reserved for special occasions, but were present in students’ learning every day.

Imagine how joyful it would be to embrace a celebratory culture! A whole faculty dedicated to finding the “good” and putting their collective energy towards student growth and learning in a very public and meaningful way. As I read through #G2Great PLN members’ comments, I could get a sense of what that would be:

These tweets were so revealing, and I found myself feeling completely inspired. These teachers are all celebrating their students in profound ways. Each tweet honors and celebrates students’ efforts by elevating their participation, their work, and their process. Each time students are celebrated, their identity as learners becomes a little more formed. With each acknowledgment, the message is sent, “Yes, you belong here. You are worthy of attention and praise.”

Once students believe that they are valued, that they are seen and understood; then, they can begin to learn with a sense of agency. Part of this work is to teach children the language of reflection so they may set meaningful goals. When students are setting their own goals, and are motivated to achieve them, learning in and of itself becomes the main event:

If celebrations reveal beliefs, I have to wonder, how do my beliefs promote a celebratory culture? I believe in kids. Not just some kids, or those kids, but all kids. I vow to celebrate that belief in the upcoming school year. I will celebrate each student’s brilliance, and this will be my number one priority. Every day I am with my students I will be a celebration – of them.

#G2Great Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds In Elementary Classrooms

by, Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to preview the book.

On Thursday, May 2, 2019, #G2Great welcomed Paul Bourque to chat with our PLN about the powerful impact quick writes can have on young writers. As I reflect on the chat and on my own writing identity, it is becoming very clear to me how true this is, not only for young writers but for writers of all ages. Writing is a chance to open up thinking and to focus on developing a perspective on things. Quick writes are a light tool that opens up the writing process in an invitational way. This is so important because the more writers write the more confident and skilled they become. When it comes to writing, volume and stamina matter a great deal:

As we prepared to have Paula be part of #G2Great, we asked her what her intentions were for writing this book. Spoken like a true writer, and teacher this is what she said:


I know to get better at something we need to practice it–a lot. As I have seen curricular requirements heaped upon schools, teachers, and students I have witnessed writing frequently becoming confined to a unit of study or a workshop block of time in a school day. I didn’t think this narrow window of writing was enough practice for our students to grow as writers and it certainly wasn’t giving them the opportunity to write for a wide variety of purposes.

I also knew teachers could not add more to their plates that needed extensive planning and assessing, so I wanted to find a way to ‘sneak’ more low-stakes writing into our school days. It had to be quick and it had to be painless. I found that inviting our students to quick write for 5-10 minutes at different times of the day for different purposes was a powerful way to get that extra practice and stimulate more thinking. These short bursts of writing could spark curiosity, explore and express opinions, encourage gratitude and mindfulness, and even foster appreciation and awareness.

I wanted to share this work we were doing with our K-6 students so I pulled together a collection of our “sparks” to help kindle hearts (with appreciation, gratitude, and empathy sparks) and minds (with metacognition, mindfulness, and mindset sparks). I hope that these small sparks ignite a flame of passion for more writing opportunities in classrooms everywhere and an appreciation for the power of writing to foster deeper thinking.  

– Paula Bourque

Paula’s words seem to whisper in my ear, as they inspire me to continue to shape my own core beliefs about what it is to teach writing. One thing that I believe is that when teachers actually practice writing themselves, their instruction becomes greatly enhanced by their real-life experiences – not as teachers, but as writers. But many teachers (and students) are reluctant to write. Paula and the #G2Great PLN shed some light on this problem. Here are some thoughts that explore entry points for writing…

I encourage you to go back to the Wakelet to either catch up or revisit Paula’s appearance on #G2Great to learn more. I was excited to write this post because I believe that Paula’s book is sure to generate more writing for your students and will inspire you to consider the many ways to leverage this approach. There are so many ways to use quick writes, from Informational Quick Writes that spark wonder and curiosity, to Social Emotional (SEL) Quick Writes that help all writers get in touch with themselves in ways that will generate real authentic writing. Her book is also a treasure trove of resources, like video files, and prompts to get you started. It’s just that good. When it comes to writing, getting started is half the battle, and when we lower the stakes we open the door.


Lower The Stakes, Raise the Risk Taking: Our students need opportunities for more low-stakes writing. Without the worry of grades or evaluation, students can feel free to take more risks and explore their thinking, free to reflect on their own words without the filter of someone else’s lens of expectation. They’ll overcome the anxiety of getting started when they initiate multiple pieces of writing each day/week and reduce their incidents of writers’ block. It may not happen right away, it takes time to build a habit and to stop worrying about what others may think so our students can discover what they think. There is no “right answer” to a Quick Write!

Paula Bourque

Reading to Make a Difference

By Jenn Hayhurst

On March 21, 2019, Lester Laminack and Katie Kelly joined #G2Great to begin a conversation around their book, Reading to Make a Difference. I have to say, I just love that title, Reading to Make a Difference. There are so many ways that reading can make a difference that it boggles my mind and stirs my soul. It makes me dizzy to think about the endless potential for positive change that is possible when teachers view reading as a call to action. The chat began with meaningful reflections as teachers celebrated book choice, writing, and the sheer joy that comes with intentional learning:

As I read these tweets I am struck by the varied perspectives and I kept thinking about how Lester and Katie’s work was inspired by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s piece, Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors.

Mirrors

We look to books to help us understand ourselves and the world. Books are indeed a mirror, they reflect a reader’s own story back to them as they read to find clarity and validation. These are the important moments for readers, this process is part of forming a secure identity. As they journey down this path to self-discovery, it is only natural that they begin to question: How am I different? How am I the same? What can I learn from all of this?

Windows

The windows we shape in our classrooms are constructed by the libraries we keep. It is time that we all ask ourselves, am I willing to take a stand for equity? Will I expand my classroom library to greet and embrace all my students? There are so many stories to tell and it is vital that we provide access to them. Children are broadening their understanding of the world as they look to find new possibilities and greater awareness for the complexities of life. Trust that the books we offer them can help with this work.

Sliding Glass Doors

Books are here to inspire us. They are foundational for opportunities to grow. They can unlock the potential for new experiences. We can teach our students to seize these opportunities through the relevant work that can come with reading a great book. What can I do with my learning? If we live the life of an authentic learner we can show them how to slide that glass door open, to step through and create something substantial. This is how we lift the words off the page and into our hearts and minds. Literacy is transformative.

Thank you, Lester and Katie for your beautiful book. It is a great resource for teachers to read, reflect, and create. I hope you will all continue to dig deeper into this work and continue grow your practice. Here are some helpful links that can keep the learning going:

Heinemann Podcast: Reading to Make a Difference

A First Look Inside Reading to Make a Difference

From Striving to Thriving Writers: a #G2Great Chat

by, Jenn Hayhurst

The word is out: writers make better writing teachers! Oh, boy, while many teachers readily identify as readers not as many identify as writers. The good news? Identifying as a writer doesn’t mean that we all have to be talented authors or that we all have to love writing. We do need to find ways to engage in the writing process to make authentic and meaningful connections that inform our instructional practices. How do we begin to do that work? How do we learn to see beyond our own experiences? How do we build a knowledgable community of others? Meet authors: Sara Holbrook, and Michael Salinger. On January 17, 2019, they, alongside, Stephanie Harvey (wow!), joined #G2Great to talk writing and share their collective wisdom to get this important conversation started.

Working with Scholastic, they have given writing teachers a resource to love and rely upon: From Striving to Thriving Writers. Their motivation for writing this book is simple…

“Our lessons were developed in collaboration with teachers all over the world, and we are excited to share them. We are constantly evolving, modifying, and adapting our lessons to what teachers tell us they need. What we hope is that these writing frameworks will be immediately useful to teachers no matter what writing program they have in place in their school.”

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger

What exactly are frameworks for writing? After reading, From Striving to Thriving Writers, I now think of frameworks as an elegant tool that students and teachers can use to enter into the writing process. Writing frameworks offers an array of mentors to explore and support writing. They provide a solid structure to hang your hat on while granting safety so writers may take risks:

The chat was a quick one and as I returned to read over tweets to write this post, it became clear that our G2Great PLN had a deep appreciation for the powerful combination of embracing mentorship while encouraging ownership over the process. For me, that is an important takeaway that makes this book an important addition to my professional texts.

What three big takeaways readers can glean from reading this book? According to the authors…

1. Writing in subsequent versions where teachers challenge writers to greater detail and sophistication with each version.

2. Co-construct with students on each version, modeling drafting and revision.

3. Writing is a means for students to communicate their ideas, but it shouldn’t be taught in isolation – all our writing lessons involve collaborative reading, writing, and speaking, developing students’ overall communication skills.

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger

This is such a well thought out and balanced approach to writing instruction, and it is just so important to be an intentional writing teacher. Teaching students how to write is something that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Regardless of their future pursuits, whether they are writing poetry, memos, blogs, or tweets. Writing is the thing that will help students represent themselves in an increasingly literate world.

This is what I believe: I believe the written word has the power to actualize our individual sense of agency and can be a source of fulfillment. I am very interested in being the best writing teacher I can be. Thank you, Sara, Michael and of course Stephanie for writing From Striving to Thriving Writers. Your book is helping me grow my practice.

If you think so too and would like to learn more please follow these links:

Dr. Timothy Rasinski and Melissa Cheesman Smith The Megabook of Fluency

by Jenn Hayhurst

On August 30, 2018 #G2Great was delighted to welcome, Dr. Timothy Rasinski and Melissa Cheeseman Smith. Tim and Melissa are fluency gurus who have so much to teach us all. Why is fluency so important?  Fluency is one way that children begin to believe in their reading prowess. I use the word prowess because it implies skill or expertise and it also implies courage and bravery. When children enjoy reading and become more skilled; reading becomes a source of joyful learning that builds them up and helps them to take future reading risks. Risks that will push them outside of their comfort zone into overdrive to their growth zone!

Yet, as part of our shared literacy history, fluency instruction got a speeding ticket. We began to focus our assessments and instruction on speed alone –  and as anyone who has ever gotten a speeding ticket will tell you, we pay dearly for that mistake.

Our conversation Thursday night mapped out a route for the complexities of fluency instruction. Our destination? To strike a balance on the elements of fluency so our instructional practices not only meet children where they are, but gets them where they need to go.

Understanding the Rules of the Road…

Think of the essential instructional building blocks of reading fluency as the “rules of the road” that help readers lay a strong reading foundation.  Just like new drivers, readers need to time to practice a lot with an expert. Here is what the #G2Great PLN had to say…

Read the Road Signs…

Road signs are a quick and efficient way to communicate important information.  Tim & Melissa gave us this powerful instructional device,  “EARS” to underscore the elements of fluency: Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm & Phrasing & Smoothness. This tells our students the essential information they need to think about when working on fluency while reminding them to be all EARS! 

Objects May Appear Closer Than They Appear…

Speed has loomed large in the rearview mirror because for so long we been advised to keep fluency success dependent on words per minute. Ironically (just like driving a car) keeping a free and open perspective is what we really need. We need the whole picture. So while fluency has been seen through that quantitative lens of speed, Tim & Melissa have given us a revised Multidimensional Fluency Scale. One that rewards good drivers (a nod to Allstate) and that reflects a qualitative lens. 

Thank you so much for joining us, Tim and Melissa! It was a fantastic night and an excellent journey. If you want to learn more from Tim and Melissa please follow these links. You will be glad you did!

LINKS
Scholastic Megabook of Fluency link:
Take a closer look at the Megabook of Fluency: www.scholastic.com/themegabookoffluency
Check out Tim and Melissa on Twitter: @TimRasinski1 ‏@MCheesmanSmith@ScholasticEd #TheMegabookOfFluency
Tim Rasinski, “Why Fluency?”: http://edublog.scholastic.com/post/why-fluency
Melissa Cheesman Smith, “Today, Choose Joy: Joyfulness in Fluent Reading”:http://edublog.scholastic.com/post/today-choose-joy-joyfulness-fluent-reading
 

Feedback That Moves Writers Forward With Guest Host Patty McGee

by Jenn Hayhurst

On Thursday, April 6, 2017 #G2Great began a conversation with Patty McGee about her new book Feedback That Moves Writers Forward from Corwin Press. Teachers enthusiastically delved into the topic and the conversation sparkled with brilliance and optimism. I think @TeachWriteEDU  captured the #G2Great experience beautifully with her tweet:

I am filled with complete gratitude because as @TeachWriteEDU put it, “there is so much goodness here…” this chat spurred me to think about some  questions we all can ask ourselves.

How does feedback influence our writing identities?

Formative feedback and identity are essential to growing as a writer. Feedback is like a continuous story that we tell our students to extend meaning making. Feedback maximizes a learning stance from a position of strength. Feedback is an invitation for students to know that we hear them, we see them, and that together we are authoring their unique writing identities. This is big work. This may be how students decide what writing will mean to them. How will it will fit into their lives? Through feedback we strive and to help each student to find an original voice and influence:

With Patty in the lead, we all focused on how specific feedback builds a writer’s identity with our students:  

In Patty’s book she recounts an experience she had during a workshop with the incredible Ralph Fletcher: “In a writing workshop by the inspiring Ralph Fletcher a few years back, Ralph asked the audience of hundreds of teachers to raise their hands if they considered themselves readers. Most hands went up. Including my own. He then asked, ‘How many of you consider yourselves writers, or even like to write?’ I looked around, oddly comforted by the fact that I was not the only teacher who seemed to be doing their best to fake the love of writing for students.” (p 5)

What experiences formed your writer’s identity?

As I thought about these question, my thoughts turned back to the story of my childhood that had a lasting impact on my own writing identity…

Yellow sunlight streamed in through giant panes of glass, warming us as we sat around the kitchen table. Coffee cups steamed darkly in contrast to the brightly painted porcelain cow creamer. Her mouth, forever frozen, in an open circle of surprise. There I was drinking actual coffee with my father! No longer just a gawky twelve year old girl. No, now I am a writer. I am one of two writers, drinking coffee, and thinking deeply. My dad leaned over my paper, loosely holding pencil in hand and laughing at the funny parts. A swell of emotion filled me and I became light headed. I don’t know if came from the caffeine or the pure elation at his response to my writing. That experience marked the beginning of a lifelong love with writing… and coffee.  

A Call To Action – A #G2Great Community of Writers: What’s your story?

We invite you to reflect on the experiences that have shaped your writing identity.  Blog about it, so that we may leave each other feedback that elevates our practice. If you leave your links in our Comment Boxes we can continue to examine who we are as writers and practice giving feedback that pushes writers forward. We can generate writing experiences for ourselves so we may lift the level of writing for our students.

Patty McGee Links

Patty’s Websites:

www.pattymcgee.org

www.drgravitygoldberg.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pmgmcgee

Patty’s Book: Feedback That Moves Writers Forward (Corwin)

https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/feedback-that-moves-writers-forward/book251633

Help Students Reflect and Set Goals for Powerful Learning by Patty McGee (Corwin Connect)

http://corwin-connect.com/2017/02/help-students-reflect-set-goals-powerful-learning/

The Power of NOT Answering Content-Specific Questions (Corwin Connect)

http://corwin-connect.com/2017/03/power-not-answering-content-specific-questions/

Three Moves to Awaken Dormant Writers by Patty McGee (Corwin Connect)

http://corwin-connect.com/2017/03/3-moves-awaken-dormant-writers/

ILA Blog Post Part 1: Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2017/03/16/looking-for-a-fresh-new-design-for-pd-try-a-residency-part-1

ILA Blog Post Part 2: Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2017/03/23/looking-for-a-fresh-new-design-for-pd-try-a-residency-part-2

Saying “No” To Teacher-Centered Practice So That We Can Say “Yes” to Student-Centered Practices

By Jenn Hayhurst

Kathleen Tolan Memorial Fund

Dear Readers,

On a personal note, this blog post is dedicated to the memory of Kathleen Tolan, who devoted her life to student-centered practices. She would have been the first to, unapologetically, say “no” to whatever was not in the best interests of students. For this, and so many other reasons, she was a teacher to admire.

On December 8, 2016 #G2Great continued a conversation in our Five Part Series: Saying “No” So We can Say: “Yes” as we examined the topic – Saying “No” to Teacher-Centered Instruction So We Can Say “Yes” to Student-Centered Practices. These conversations are essential to the health and well-being of our profession because as we examine our beliefs, we clarify the work the work that needs to happen in our classrooms. Our professional growth is both an individual and collective process. If we keep the conversation going, we can begin to uncover the power of our impact. Ours is a community that is devoted to discovering professional empowerment.

Get Set:

Saying yes or no to any practice begins with reconciling what we believe. Now more than ever we need to make decisions around best practices that link to an authentic philosophy for educational practices. Our stances must be informed by formative and summative data and  it is imperative that we read and write professionally,  This is how we have the good judgement to say yes or no to a mandate that does not keep students at the center of decision-making:

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-12-22-27-am

Get  Ready:

Part of keeping students at the center of instructional decision-making means that we value independence. We say yes to independence when we flex guided practice. Setting explicit goals, modeling and reflection are some practices that we need to incorporate into our instructional day. These are practices that every teacher can say yes to despite any mandate that comes our way:

 

Letting Go:

During the chat our conversation took a turn toward agency. For me, agency is a topic I return to again and again. It is the ultimate intention for every teacher – to have students who work with as Peter Johnston put it “a sense of agency”. Working in classrooms We know there are many paths to independence as we work to create our maps for empowered learning. No matter where we work or what curriculum we follow there is always room for the gradual release through guided practice and collaborative learning. When we can finally let go and have and give students room to teach and learn from each other we know we have achieved a classroom built on a foundation of high expectations that students can grow into:

A teacher’s life is immersed in growth  We are always evolving as if we are waking up to new understandings for how students learn best. Coming together each week for #G2Great is a way to uncover these best practices and that is amazing. However, I think what I love the most about our brilliant PLN  is that no matter where anyone is in the journey, we are always coming back to kids at the center and to learn with a sense of joy and wonder.