Reclaiming a Seat at the Professional Decision-Making Table

by Mary Howard

You can access our Wakelet chat artifact using this link

Last week, #G2Great celebrated our seventh anniversary with a fitting topic for a twitter chat home: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space. Our commitment to #G2Great chat for six years and counting reflects our deep respect for collaborative conversations where collective voices can ignite in joyful harmony. For week two following our year seven anniversary, we chose a topic that felt like a timely chat transition: Reclaiming a Seat at the Professional Decision-Making Table.

One needs only to look at the state of education to understand why this is an essential topic. At a time when mandates and controlling political initiatives are at an all-time high, educators are being held captive by demands for obligatory acceptance. The ease for companies to tout their suspect wares for a hefty price has burgeoned out of control, exacerbated in a pandemic where the ‘learning loss’ narrative masks a hard core sales pitch. This is complicated in that those with control of the purse strings often have little if any educational background but are motivated by a personal agenda. Add growing self-proclaimed experts with a cause and a rally cry of “The Science of Reading” and we find ourselves caught in a political tsunami. Suddenly our coveted seat at that professional decision-making table has become a dreaded seat at a decision-taking table.

These challenges have put up one roadblock after another for educators who desperately want the freedom to make decisions in honor of children. This freedom can be the difference between a grab and go mindset vs informed choices driven by a responsive view of the teaching/learning process. It would be illogical to argue whether teachers deserve a seat at that decision-making table knowing that our ability to make decisions that are grounded in deep understandings is the tipping point to our success as professionals and to the success of our students’ as learners. Therefore, in this post, I won’t argue our right to have a seat at that table, but why that seat and the freedom to make decisions comes at a price. So let’s pause so that I can approach this topic with a connection to my life experiences.  

I have been a frequent visitor to Honolulu, Hawaii for years, working with schools before lingering awhile to soak in the island beauty. During these visits, I’ve taken countless lessons to become a surfer. I use the word “surfer” loosely since I’m not known for the much-needed grace and balance that actual surfers possess. Since a picture really is worth a thousand words, my visual collage below reflects one of my early surfing excursions. As you can see, my style seems to spread terror across the Waikiki waters, as evidenced by the horrified face of my instructor coaching me from behind the scenes and the ill-fated man ahead of me about to be mowed down by a little old lady perched on a wobbly piece of wood devoid of brakes. In my defense, I failed to notice him because I was too busy celebrating a long awaited prone position but I am very happy to announce that no human was harmed during my early learning attempts.

Video of early surfing lessons with what I learned about teaching link

So why do I share this? After five decades in education and long-time work with schools across the country, I believe that it’s important for us to relive what it feels like to be a novice now and then. Committed learning even when it’s hard illustrates the “price” we pay for the professional freedom we say we desire. I owed it myself and those around me to do all I could to learn how to surf so that I could gain new understandings and skills over time. Although I have definitely improved after countless lessons, I’m not sure that I’d want to be in the same ocean with me given my still shaky status that continues to this day. Without lessons and the patient support of coaches, I suspect that my face may well have appeared on the front page of the Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper that day.

Surfers are no different than teachers. A skilled surfer is like a skilled teacher in that both recognize their obligation to their chosen field to respect the rights of those they serve by paying the price of unwavering commitment to learning and the rewards of our efforts: Knowledge. Experience. Dedication. Determination. Practice. Study. Collaboration. Patience. Reflection. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Both surfers and educators dedicated to their profession work for years to hone their skills in a never-ending quest. And just like teachers, surfers understand that each surfing experience and those who share the water with them are unique and different, thus requiring different responses for each situation.

I began teaching in a special education room in small town Missouri in 1972. Nary a resource or wise piece of advice was ever offered to me in that first year. I entered my tiny special education room armed only with my love for children and my determination to become the best teacher I could possibly be. Knowing now what a negative impact rigid adherence to programs can have, I consider it my good fortune not to have been tethered to shallow “stuff”. My enthusiasm, my willingness to learn, and my steadfast desire to do right by my kids kept me in a perpetual state of inspired learning. Yes, I was uncertain often in those early days. Yes, I made many shaky choices. Yes, I had to change direction often. But those early missteps set me on a path to seek better choices. In those early years, I embraced my imperfections and saw this as a gift in the form of a gentle nudge to the new thinking I needed. My success as a teacher was reflected by the success of my learners which earned me the right to sit at the professional decision-making table. I am still joyfully paying that price all these years later when my learning means as much to me now as it did then. If we stop learning, we are doomed to stagnate and our children are doomed to pay that price.  

FINAL THOUGHTS

These are hard times in education folks. Teachers everywhere are being told what to do and how to do it, what not to do and what to do instead, and even how to think (or how not to think even when they know better). But in hard times where politically fueled mandates and directives have taken over our schools, it is more important than ever for us to lead the life of responsible professionals driven by a quest for knowledge and the research and experience that feeds that knowledge. I cannot repeat often enough that this is the price we pay for a seat at the table. We talk about teacher agency, but agency comes with responsibility to the learning that prevents us from mindlessly reaching for a script or shallow activity just because it’s there. We read. We study. We explore. We question. We discuss. We research. And then we do it all again. Seth Godin reminds us that “Nobody dabbles at dentistry” so we refuse to ‘dabble’ as educators and instead work to “be extraordinarily good at whatever it is that we do.” If we truly desire professional freedom, we must first make a commitment to professional knowledge in the name of our own growth process.

Yes, I believe that schools have a clear responsibility to create a culture of professional learning that would help us all to do that, but the ignorance of schools for not doing so does is not a free ride for professional responsibility. Even if we find that our seat at the professional decision-making table is under lock and key, we have options if we so choose to explore them:

• Don’t wait for permission to take your place at the decision-making table; take that seat armed with references that show that you belong there. Become a dedicated action researcher who seeks evidence of learning in action. The seat is there but you may have to show that you deserve the trust of others first.

• Build a mini professional decision-making table and invite some like-minded others who are equally determined to make decisions for students. Explore the real life informants of living breathing humans and what this tells us about next steps decision-making Start a revolution with a team to support you.

• If these things don’t work, then create an intimate table for one where you have a space to use your knowledge to awaken your freedom to make choices. You may be surprised how your determination will inspire and entice others to join you. Change often with begins with one person. Be the one!

WISE ADVICE FROM OUR #G2Great CHAT

In 2012 I wrote the words that continue to guide my thinking in the book that launched #G2Great chat, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (Heinemann, 2012). My quote explains why we can never give up our quest to take our rightful seat at the professional decision-making table.

With each tick of the instructional clock, we can lift students to great heights of learning or hold them cognitive hostages in an instructional dead end. Great work doesn’t happen by chance, it’s a conscious choice we make using a new mind-set that forever alters our thinking. (page 93)

As I type these words, many educators are being forced into that instructional dead end and told that that are incapable of making decisions so therefore they need a fail proof fidelity box to follow with a vengeance. For some, this may seem like a blessing but for most of us it is a travesty of injustice to our role as professionals and to children who depend on us to behave like professionals.

There is a dangerous power game in progress in far too many schools and it is forcing teachers to play follow the leader in a mindless version of what teaching is all about. We can play this game and succumb to the pressure of power plays, or we can pick the battles that matter most based on our growing knowledge of research, children and meaningful assessments that help us to make the best possible decisions. Combine this with reflection that turns our teaching inward, and move us from teaching as an act of mindless DOING to teaching as an act of responsive THINKING. When we take time to internally ponder our own choices and how those choices support or hinder learning, we then embrace a higher professional purpose that can lead us to change. I’d say that’s a lofty goal that is well worth the effort.

Yes, professional freedom comes with a price, but the payoff is priceless.

Seven-Year Anniversary: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space

by Mary Howard

You can access our Wakelet chat artifact using this link

When each January arrives to boldly mark the start of a new year, it awakens a sense of eager anticipation for all that stands before us and precious days ahead just waiting to be lived. Like other new years that loom large in our view, 2022 brings promises of hope for what could be at a time when the world has given us challenges like we have never known before. While Covid 19 is not yet in our rearview mirror, a new numerical combination of 2-0-2-2 beckons us to dream of better days ahead.

Your #G2great co-moderators including me, Fran McVeigh, Brent Gilson and Jenn Hayhurst share that same sense of hope and possibility as we enter 2022. But each new year also brings an added meaning to each of us. Every January since 2015 we turn our attention to the chat created on January 8, 2015 with a ten-week study of the book that inspired it: Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (Heinemann 2012). That ten-week exploration has led us to one joyful knock on the anniversary door after another that inspires us to gaze back across the years and contemplate brave new conversations ahead.

To launch #G2Great Year 7, we celebrated a topic that has been our heart and soul from the beginning: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space. Admittedly, we are selfishly motivated since we personally long for a space where we can think, wonder, and explore alongside dedicated educators. We would love to think that all teachers reside within a schoolwide community of learners, but we know that this is not reality for many educators. Invitational discourse has been the driving force of #G2Great chat since its inception and that vision continues. We embrace collaborative inquiry and have experienced its impact in action each week. We are honored to step into 2022 armed with our own curious wonderings along with those that each of you carry into our chat.

Since we were very intentional about crafting our anniversary chat topic for 2022, I’d like to highlight it from a twitter perspective: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space. In this post, I’ll reflect on what drives our commitment to allocate time and energy for collective professional growth using twitter as our platform and how this can support shared learning and the continued professional growth we all desire.

Acknowledging our Professional WHY

We can’t discuss professional learning and our dedication to lifting our own voices in the company of others without sharing why we made a choice to bring #G2Great chat to life for seven years and counting. As professionals, we are fueled by our desire to deepen our understandings about the teaching/learning process and the research that supports and enriches those understandings. We know that no program or quick fix solution will ever be a worthy substitute for growing knowledge. We have seen blind faith in products lead to dependency as publisher fueled tethers distract our view and blur the lines of our professional responsibility to children. We created #G2Great chat in January of 2015 because we recognize resources with a strong research foundation can support our thinking, but it is flexible professional decision-making grounded in research supported knowledge that matters most. This inspires us to use #G2Great as a social media platform where we can merge our collective voices to build a dual lens of reflective practice through our eyes and yours. Ultimately, we know that our goal is to sharpen our view of thoughtfully responsive instruction.

Priya Parker beautifully illustrated our #G2Great WHY in The Art of Gatherings: How We Meet and Why it Matters. Our commitment to using social media as a gathering space around a particular topic affords opportunities to make sense of our educational world within a learning community. Through the process of lifting our collective voices each week, we put our hopes and dreams on display in fast-paced twitter conversations that can serve to extend and strengthen our beliefs and understandings on invitational thinking playground we created for that purpose.

Expanding our Professional Growth Reach

Seven plus years ago, social media was barely a blip on my priority radar screen, evidenced by the twitter eye rolling reflecting my disdain. But then one day I was invited to lead a twitter chat. After one “No thank you” after another followed by more eye rolling, I reluctantly agreed. As it turns out, this hour chat was life-altering and when Jenn Hayhurst and Amy Brennan invited me create a chat around my book a week later, I didn’t hesitate. A twitter convert suddenly emerged from the ‘not me’ ashes.

What changed? Suddenly, this eye-rolling gal from Oklahoma who spent most of her time alone on the road could engage in professional conversations with educators from all over the world no matter where I happened to find myself. Even after all these years co-moderating #G2Great chat, I still feel a sense of anticipatory elation each time I sit in front of my computer ready to engage in celebratory discourse with new friends and old. The chats we collaborate to create each week are the gentle nudge we need to revisit, reflect, and often revise our thinking and that nudge explodes in technicolor view on Thursday nights at 8:30 ET. I never cease to be amazed by how much I feel supported as a professional during the course of our twitter ponderings alongside others. New acquaintances have blossomed into trusted friendships across the years, and the generosity and dedication of educators has been overwhelming.

An Insider’s Perspective of a Twitter Chat

While I have certainly been twitter blessed over the past seven plus years, this seems like a good time for you to see the impact that our twitter chat is having on other professionals. As you read the inspired tweets from our #G2great chat last night, I hope that it just might entice you to join the conversation.  

I’d like to take a moment to depart from sharing tweet collections and celebrate one new #G2Great friend. This week, fourth grade teacher, Laura Reece, joined us for her first twitter chat. I am still inspired by her enthusiastic joy!

Last night Laura’s enthusiasm was a reminder that if we are going to ask our students to step into discomfort for the sake of learning, we should be willing to do the same. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your belief in your own professional responsibility to your students and sharing your love for teaching with us.

My Final Thoughts

I’m so grateful for the conversations and collaborations I have engaged in over the years. I am so grateful for that memorable day I chose to leave my twitter eye rolling days behind me and venture in to the power potential of the chat conversations we have come to cherish. Yet, I’m always surprised that so many educators have never experienced the gift of passion-fueled twitter dialogue that is only a reach away and accessible twenty-four hours per day.

As I come to the close of this post and the beginning of another year of engaging conversations, I’d like to pause to send a note of appreciation to each of you who join our chat on a regular or occasional basis. YOU inspired us to create #G2Great in January 2015. YOU inspire us to look forward to another year each January since then. YOU are the reason we stepped happily into year seven. YOU heighten our desire to explore the topics, authors, and twitter style discussion that we are grateful to support. All of our planning for each chat is done in YOUR honor because you ARE #G2Great and YOU motivate each of us to imagine new professional conversations as we lift our voices across another year.

Thank you for infusing professional passion into our #G2Great chat.

PAST ANNIVERSARY CHAT ARTIFACTS

Just as I have done in each anniversary post in the past, I’d like to share the artifacts that lovingly reside in our  Wakelet home awaiting others to follow across 2022 as well as the 271 blog reflections that extend and support each one. We look forward to adding more as we chat across 2022.

Anniversary Chat Artifacts on Wakelet

1st Anniversary chat

2nd Anniversary chat

3rd Anniversary chat

4th Anniversary chat

5th Anniversary chat

6th Anniversary chat

7th Anniversary chat

Anniversary Literacy Lenses Blog Reflections

Year 1: 1/5/16 (Blog Post launch)

Year 2: 1/5/17 The Gifts of YOU

Year 3: 1/4/18 (Curiosity Crew collaboration)

Year 4: 1/10/19 (Curiosity Crew collaboration)

Year 5: 1/9/20 WHAT IF?

Year 6: 1/7/21 Courageous Conversations

On our 5th anniversary, I wrote a post about the book that launched #G2great and have shared it in every anniversary chat since then: 10 Lessons Teachers Taught Me About Good to Great Teaching by Mary Howard 

Rooted in Strength: Using Translanguaging to Grow Multilingual Readers and Writers

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet Link for the archive of our twitter chat

On Thursday, November 4th, #G2Great hosted the first of a two part series on translanguaging. This chat featured Dr. Cecilia M Espinosa and Dr. Laura Ascenzi-Moreno and their book, Rooted in Strength: Using Translanguaging to Grow Multilingual Readers and Writers.

Words matter! Within this book you will see these words a lot: whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual. (Word count from preview copy: 37, 39, 141, 220, 326, 695) The authors deliver with their focus on: multilingual, translanguaging, strength, and bilingual when discussing the needs of students at the emergent stage of learning an additional language. It will be important for you, the reader, to deepen your understanding through Cecilia and Laura’s viewpoint.

A translanguaging vision of reading posits that reading starts with the person. In other words, the multilingual person does not read in one language or the other, but rather brings his or her whole linguistic repertoire and social repertoire to the text. Reading cuts across named languages, modalities, and experiences.

Rooted in Strength: Using Translanguaging to Grow Multilingual Readers and Writers ( p.68)

This is a book about teaching for teachers that will help put bilingual students at the center of instruction. “You don’t have bilingual students in your classroom?” you say. Well, it is highly possible that you will eventually have students who identify as bilingual sometime in the future. Start planning now for your response. Your response to the ideas in this book will help you grow and practice seeing the “whole” in the multilingual folks in your own community. This book is bigger than just a “teaching book”. It’s an invitation to continue growing and learning both professionally and personally.

We asked Laura and Cecilia to respond to some questions in order to ensure that we included the author’s view of this text. I feel compelled to begin with this one which is usually the third and last one.

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

Teaching is an intellectual journey that pushes us to confront and renovate our understandings of students and their families.  When we center instruction on emergent bilinguals as whole people, we do just that – we engage in the difficult, but rewarding work, of equity-based teaching.  Every teacher can do this!  It’s about having an open and curious heart and mind. Meaningful change in literacy instruction starts with the recognition that emergent bilinguals need to come to our classroom whole (with their languaging practices & socio-cultural histories). A translanguaging stance challenges us to embrace a radical departure from too long held deficit views about bilingualism. There is great power and potential for innovation and creativity when we build on the strengths of emergent bilingual students.  This book is for all teachers who count emergent bilinguals as part of their classroom communities, those in general education, English as a new language, and bilingual education. 

Many professional books are vying for your attention. Full disclosure, this is an infomercial. If you are seeking more because you have worked on individual skills or mentor texts, this book will give you ideas to consider, implement and reflect on their use as you encounter bigger views of instruction AND assessment for emergent multilingual students. You will be amazed how you can focus on and celebrate what students CAN do with an open and curious mind. The following quote is about writing, but it’s also true of reading. The deficit perspective has got to go!

A second author question that we use at #g2great …

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

This book emerges from our professional and personal experiences as educators of emergent bilinguals. First, we were frustrated that most of the professional literacy texts we read, always kept emergent bilinguals at the margins. We wanted to bring them to the center of all literacy instruction. We also wanted to bring a stance – translanguaging – which has become more known across educational circles – into active dialogue with teachers in a way that would be practical and inspiring. 

We wrote this book knowing that for teachers, one of the greatest pleasures is to see their students deeply engaged in using reading and writing as tools for thinking, expressing, wondering and knowing. As new teachers we always looked for strategies to engage our emergent bilinguals – students who use two or more languages in their daily lives, in rich, thoughtful literacy practices. We also wrote this book with equity in mind – we know from experience that all pedagogy needs to be rooted in the fact that emergent bilinguals’ full participation as readers and writers is fundamental to any classroom where all students deeply engage in literacy.

Our hope with the book is that teachers see themselves as capable and excited to teach emergent bilinguals and that they understand how all students’ language practices are a key element to their success. We also want teachers to feel empowered through translanguaging pedagogy by understanding how they can shape literacy learning experiences through their deep knowledge of children.

Over 20 % of Americans are multilingual and are speaking more than one language at home according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Link) That compares with 56% of Europeans. Some experts propose that over half of the world’s population is multilingual. To be competitive in the world proficiency in another language or two may be required.

In the past many educators have been led to believe that teaching English as an additional language requires extensive training beyond a classroom teacher’s repertoire. Cecilia and Laura posit that it’s not about the specific skills of a teacher, but more about their own mindset, beliefs and actions.

The third and final question for Cecilia and Laura …

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

First and foremost, literacy instruction for emergent bilinguals must be focused on the whole child. If we are truly committed to literacy instruction that is transformative and equitable the identities and full capacities of emergent bilinguals need to be recognized, incorporated and built upon as essential to all literacy instruction. It matters that we take a stance of strength and that we normalize our students and their families languaging practices. 

Additionally, literacy and literacy instruction are never neutral. As teachers we have the power to privilege certain identities, histories, and language practices, while silencing others as substandard.

The theories we hold regarding how emergent bilingual children develop as readers and writers impact and inform our instruction in powerful ways.  We need to create opportunities to value and to build on each and all of our students bi/multilingual resources.

In Conclusion …

As a result of reviewing Cecilia and Laura’s answers and the post this far, you have had more opportunities to interact with these words: “whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual.” Maybe you are confident in your knowledge and are now at the curious stage. What might be some next steps? Being rooted in strength may be easy for educators with a growth mindset. But let’s shake the cobwebs off and dig, and dig, and dig. You might consider where and how to begin using this list as a guide.

  1. Be reflective. Take time to pause, to consider, to reflect, to review your status quo. Begin with your own knowledge of these words individually: “whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual”.
  2. Consider the impact of your increased knowledge for students in your classroom, building, district, and community.
  3. Place one student at the center and consider the whole of your knowledge about what that child can do.
  4. Study translanguaging principles (Chapter 1). Collect some translanguaging models with a range of formats. How will translanguaging solidify the strengths of the student from #3 above?
  5. Study the possibilities for a multilingual learning environment (Chapter 2). How will the student from #3 thrive in this environment?
  6. Deepen your understanding of reading and writing assessments that are always double jeopardy for language learners (Chapters 6 and 10). What new information would be available about the student in #3?
  7. Study reading and writing (Chapters 3-5 and 7-9). How is your new learning increasing the effectiveness of the student you are planning for from #3?

Grab a friend as a thought partner and get started! Your students will benefit!

Additional Resources

Scholastic Blog Post about Rooted in Strength: https://oomscholasticblog.com/post/rooted-strength-debut-title-cecilia-m-espinosa-and-laura-ascenzi-moreno-explores-how

Interview with Ernest Morell: http://teacher.scholastic.com/education/reachteach/reachteachlanding_cecilia_m_espinosa_and_laura_ascenzi_moreno.html

Bring me a Book Foundation Toolkits: https://www.bringmeabook.org/advocates/laura-ascenzi-moreno/

Websites:

Cecilia M. Espinosa

ceciliamespinosa.wordpress.com/

Laura Ascenzi-Moreno

https://www.lascenzimoreno.com/

The Comprehension Intervention Model: Nurturing Self-Regulated Readers Through Responsive Teaching

by Mary Howard

You can access our chat Wakelet HERE

On 10/28/21, #G2Great engaged in a long-awaited celebration that was years in the making when we soaked in a literacy gift from authors Linda Dorn, Carla Soffos and Adria Klein: The Comprehensive Intervention Model: Nurturing Self-Regulated Readers Through Responsive Teaching (2021, Stenhouse). The CIM has enriched the lives of students and teachers in countless schools and districts and now the combined CIM wisdom of the authors is available to us all.

My appreciation for CIM began with a book that I’ve referenced many times over the years: Interventions that Work: A Comprehensive Intervention Model for Preventing Reading Failure in Grades K-3 by Linda Dorn and Carla Soffos (2011, Pearson). In the preface, Adria Klein describes this 2021 book as a “completely revamped and expanded” follow up to its predecessor (page xiii). Having read both books, ‘revamped and expanded’ feels like an understatement since the pairing of the CIM book and Resource Manual offer in-depth detail enriched by forms, charts, examples and over fifty videos quickly accessed by QR Codes.

These dramatic revamped and extended additions deepen our understandings. Interventions that Work focused on grades K-3 but that reach is extended to the upper grades detailed in Chapter 8: Comprehension Focus Groups for Increasing Comprehension Power (pages 127-123). Chapter 9 is another important addition with Strategic Processing Intervention for Students with Reading Disabilities (pages 144-157). These new chapters along with refined descriptions of the layers of interventions, the Language Phase embedded across layers and added research on the transfer of learning will magnify the CIM implementation process.

With these gifts in mind, I suddenly find myself thinking back to the rocky Response to Intervention (RTI) journey launched by IDEA 2004. I have been quite vocal about the many missteps of RTI, which I detailed RTI from All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (2009, Heinemann). This meandering RTI path is riddled with the deluded premise that we can buy our way to success through programs disseminated and mandated across a school or district. Add to this stunning fallacy the disconnect between interventions and instruction and the flawed data collection systems leading to flawed decision making, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our children have become the RTI sacrificial lambs.

Unfortunately, the most critical components of the intervention process have been glaringly absent in traditional RTI approaches, thus contributing to one failed effort after another. After seventeen years of missteps, we have been afforded an opportunity to leave those failures behind us and change the very face of RTI moving forward. The CIM book and Resource Manual combined will show us how to accomplish that if we are willing to read this book pairing and heed the wise advice of Linda Dorn, Carla Soffos and Adria Klein.

When Carla and Adria asked me to write an endorsement for The CIM, I was honored. From the first time I had learned about CIM, I was certain that it was the much-needed shift in thinking we needed to alter our RTI course. In my endorsement on the Stenhouse website I wrote:

The Comprehensive Intervention Model renews my hope for the future of educators who are wise enough to put the authors’ sage advice into glorious schoolwide action in honor of children.” Mary Howard, 2021

The HOPE I refer to is lovingly woven across each page of the CIM reference duo. Linda, Carla and Adria help us to re-envision the intervention and instructional process in a way that will later our RTI success trajectory. Since I can’t do justice to the brilliance flowing generously across CIM, I’ll condense this post to four central features of CIM that “renew my hope” in very profound ways along with a quote from the authors that highlight each feature. As you read, note that each of these four features are needed in combination as they work in support of and in coordination each other.

ONGOING PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

As soon as my copy of the CIM arrived, I took the authors advice to begin with Chapter 10: Implementing the Comprehensive Model for Literacy Improvement (pages 158-175). This chapter opens with the Ten Principles of CIM Professional Development Design followed by examples of districts that have applied these principles. The very heart and soul of CIM is reflected in the quote above. There are no programs to buy. There are no quick fix solutions to be forced into action. There are no scripts to follow. There are no data fueled devices that blind us to the needs of children. In every word, the authors demonstrate deep respect for teachers and the important role that knowledgeable educators play as “agents of literacy improvement” who are given the instructional support and coaching over time that is at the center of our efforts.

COLLECTIVE COLLABORATION AND COORDINATION

One of the biggest missteps of the RTI process to date has been a pervasive view of interventions the as support offered beyond the general education setting. The quote above acknowledges that any effective RTI design is grounded in the idea that the classroom teacher is at the forefront of our efforts. The authors emphasize that if an intervention is deemed necessary, it is always seen as “in addition to” rather than “instead of” support. The classroom teacher is the first line of defense so intervention always occur within a spirit of collaboration and coordination. This requires collective responsibility as illustrated by the CIM as a systemic approach to RTI designed to create an intervention and instructional culture from a schoolwide and districtwide level. Without this, we rob children of important learning opportunities by using interventions as a substitute of daily instruction rather than using them to supplement instruction.

MULTI-TIERED SYSTEM OF SUPPORT

On page 170 in Figure 10.5 shown below is the most effective intervention design framework that I have ever seen in any RTI Model to date.

The authors write “A decision-making model with layers of instructional support and degrees of intensity provides a framework for meeting the unique needs of students with reading problems.” This four-section triangle may look like other RTI models at first glance, but it is distinct in design and intent. The layers are shown as least to most intensive from the bottom up. The least intensive is Core Classroom Instruction provided by the classroom teacher with most intensive Targeted Interventions at the top where SPI specialist Strategic Processing Interventions are provided by a SPI specialist. Two layers in the center provided by CIM Specialists inxlusw tier 2 with Classroom Small Group Interventions followed by tier 3 with Supplemental Interventions. These draw from the “portfolio” of intervention options described in chapters 5 through 9. This extended design highlights collective responsibility where collaboration and coordination are central to our efforts.

EVIDENCE-BASED DECISION MAKING

Educators have long experienced the ebb and flow of ever-present obsession with standardized test scores and numerical data linked to suspect programs. The CIM refocuses our attention to the child by emphasizing that multiple assessments with careful analysis help us uncover “evidence of the student’s knowledge, thinking and problem-solving” as we discover the patterns that begins to merge across assessments. This positions assessment as a thread that connects instruction and interventions within the context of active engagement in learning. With the support of learner-centered data that includes thoughtful kidwatching, we draw from varied informants that can lead to evidence-based decision-making on behalf of the children in front of us rather than what is too often purported to exist beneath a color coded spreadsheets. Combined with the joining of professional minds in ways that supports our shared understandings from unique perspectives, we have a responsive teaching design at its finest.

TWITTER STYLE GLIMPSE OF CIM FROM THE AUTHORS’ WISE EYES

During the #G2Great chat, Adria and Carla merged their reflections on our eight chat questions. I have spotlighted this incredible shared thinking below.

MY CLOSING THOUGHTS

As I come to the close of this post, I am once again inspired by authors Linda Dorn, Carla Soffos and Adria Klein. What they have accomplished in this paired resource will change the way that we think about the RTI process. No detail is seen as too small and every possible support that schools could need to initiate the CIM has been included across the book with other learning opportunities available to teachers beyond those resources.

Filled with gratitude , I pause to reach for this exquisite professional gift and my thoughts turn to Linda Dorn. I am fortunate to be one of many educators who has been inspired and informed by Linda Dorn. Lost in this moment of appreciation, I suddenly recalled an email correspondence from Linda dated December 23, 2010. I had been sharing the CIM widely, but after teachers had expressed concern about the requirements I wrote Linda for clarification. She quickly responded, explaining that teachers can implement CIM at two levels. While the first level does require specific training, Linda added:

However, because we realize that most teachers are unable to access the university training, we want to ensure that anyone who wants to implement the CIM has this opportunity. In these cases, we encourage schools to use the professional texts and DVDs as resources for implementing their RtI process. Some schools may have RR; others will not. And if teachers are interested, they can attend professional development summer institutes on the CIM in different parts of the country, including the CIM university training centers. 

Linda’s response reflects how much she believed in giving teachers access to the principles and support that I am now holding in my hands (those “DVDs” Linda mentioned are now accessed directly in the book). The first level of extended training is certainly preferable, but Linda’s words ensure that CIM is within reach of every teacher inspired to make this important shift. That’s not surprising given Linda’s contribution highlighted in a Stenhouse tribute:

Linda was the primary developer and lead trainer of the Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy Model, a nationally recognized model that uses literacy coaches as agents of change… She believed that school-embedded professional development is critical for supporting teachers in new learning.” 

Those words come alive in the CIM book and resource manual. Linda Dorn’s dedication to CIM and the teachers and students who would benefit from it was so strong that she continued to work on this book while she was battling cancer. Following her death on 9/17/19, co-authors and dear friends Carla Soffos and Adria Klein stepped up and worked tirelessly to ensure that this book would one day be in the hands of educators everywhere. That long-awaited day has come.

As I type these words with the CIM perched lovingly within reach, I think about the many books written by Linda Dorn that are my frequent companions on my bookshelf. What better way to honor Linda’s legacy and the principles that guided her professional life than to put those principles into glorious schoolwide action in honor of children. This exquisite book will show us how to bring Linda’s legacy to life in classrooms everywhere.

With deep gratitude to Linda Dorn, Carla Soffos, and Adria Klein for making this possible

Engaging Literate Minds: Developing Children’s Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Lives

by Mary Howard

June 25, 2020 was a very special day for our #G2Great family. It felt like a double dose of professional joy to welcome guest hosts, Peter Johnston and Kathy Champeau, and celebrate their phenomenal new book, Engaging Literate Minds: Developing Children’s Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Lives (Stenhouse 2020). 

As soon as I heard that Engaging Literate Minds would soon be gracing the world, I knew that it was destined to be the professional gift that educators desperately needed. As I soaked in their wisdom, I was struck by the idea that I was indeed the recipient of this “gift” in every sense of the word. While their writerly “WHY” remained in clear focus as I read, it seems appropriate to begin by sharing the first question we posed to Peter and Kathy so that we can understand the book “WHY” from their perspective:

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

Peter Johnston

I was motivated to write this book because I thought what my co-authors were doing was so important that other teachers should be made aware of it and why it is so important. For myself, I hoped that the process of writing – shuttling between classroom and research library – would expand my understanding of literacy teaching and learning. Events happen in the classroom that we might recognize as important without initially knowing why, and there is often research that can help us understand. At the same time research can help us expand the frequency of those classroom moments and maximize their value, or find new aspects of development to move our teaching forward. My hope for the book in the professional world is that it will provoke teachers to do exactly what our group has done, helping each other to examine children’s learning and our teaching, keeping in mind the big picture of children’s development and how it might be reflected in the small moments of classroom life. I hope the book expands teachers’ imagination of what’s possible, why it’s important, and how to achieve it and, in the process, expand their professional knowledge. I also hope the book might affirm and perhaps enhance teachers’ understanding of the importance of teaching, both for children and for society at large.

Kathy Champeau

I wanted teachers and students to experience the thrill of it all, the thrill of teaching and learning this way, and what’s possible when they do. Teaching is such a daily joy when students want to come to school, when they can’t wait to find out what they are capable of, and when they realize who they are becoming in the process. Teachers create the opportunities for this to happen. I interact with a lot of teachers from a variety of districts and I was concerned that so many were leaving the profession or contemplating it because the joy was gone and they weren’t able to reach students the way they had hoped. I wondered if educators found examples that described what’s possible from multiple teachers, not just one teacher, then they might say, “I want that, I can do that.” No matter their setting, teachers are in control of their intellectual lives and who they become as teachers is a result of that. Teachers need to know their expertise matters and growing that expertise collaboratively in a true intellectual community can support their learning and, in turn, their students’ learning. If teachers create intellectually stimulating classroom environments that are safe for all students, school becomes an exciting place to be each day. Hopefully, this book is a vision for what’s possible and the reasons why this vision matters. 

I believe without question that every educator who reads Engaging Literate Minds will understand this ‘vision of possible’, particularly if it is used to promote schoolwide collaborative study as I hope it will. Initially, knowing that nothing short of a full committed read would be adequate to bring their vision to life caused me to struggle finding a sense of direction for this post. Ultimately, I decided to focus on three sources of wisdom by using two quotes from Engaging Literate Minds as bookends to open and close this post followed by more reflections from Peter and Kathy with twitter-fueled chat messages lovingly sandwiched in the middle. 

And so, I begin on page 9 of Engaging Literate Minds with our opening bookend quote since it reflects the spirit of the thinking that follows:

This quote is a stark reminder that professional books should “change our teaching” and thus transform our practices. I view this from a lens of HOPE. Across Engaging Literate Minds, Peter Johnston and Kathy Champeau, along with classroom vignettes from generous educators Andrea Hartwig, Sarah Helmer, Merry Komar, Tara Krueger and Laurie McCarthy, SHOW us what change looks like in action. This is the very heart and soul of a book that feels like an invitation to embrace transformative change both personally and professionally. Before I share their takeaways from my tweet inspired perspective, let’s listen to Peter and Kathy explain what they hope will be some takeaways in our second question:

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

Peter Johnston

• Social-emotional development is firmly in the bailiwick of the language arts and is important not only for children’s literate and intellectual development, but also for its own sake. Teaching is apprenticing humanity.  

• The ways we structure classroom talk matter enormously for children’s literate and social-emotional development.

• A lifelong learner is someone who finds it normal to initiate and actively pursue learning, overcoming obstacles as necessary by generating strategic solutions. That’s what children (and teachers) do when they’re engaged.

• Giving children more autonomy does not mean giving up authority, respect, or power—quite the reverse.

• For teachers and students, optimal conditions are the same: meaningfully engaged, caring, dialogical learning communities—also the foundation for a democratic society.

Kathy Champeau

What teachers believe, say, and do, matter greatly. When teachers and perhaps administrators are finished reading this book, I hope they will have an overwhelming sense that teachers and students flourish in caring and intellectually stimulating learning environments and have a better sense of how it might be done. Teachers are incredibly busy and days are packed. Maybe teachers will see that developing their students’ social/emotional lives alongside the academics is not only necessary but easier than they may have thought.

Embracing and facilitating students’ ability to think together is central to their classroom and the resulting intellectual fire will reap benefits for everyone. Our students have profound insights that are often left unnoticed. Uncover them. This understanding leads to students learning in classrooms where they have a sense of competence, belonging, and meaningfulness. There are many places in a fixed curriculum to allow students’ (and teachers’) thinking to permeate and by not allowing it actually can restrict learning. Simply setting students and themselves up as noticers, teachers, and researchers builds an identity and a sense of agency for ongoing learning that becomes part of who they are. This can be done day one. 

Another important piece is for teachers to view their classrooms through the eyes of their students. What does it feel like to be a student in my classroom today? Now? Trying to imagine it from a student’s perspective makes it easier to see places and spaces for students’ voices to be heard, not only to make room for that, but to facilitate a dialogic exchange.

The last piece is to embrace the why of what we are doing so as expert teachers who are on the cutting of our craft, we embrace the research world and the ongoing contributions that research makes in our practice. Without Peter’s wealth of research knowledge, integrally incorporated into the book to expand our thinking and understand the important why of what we do in our unique contexts, our decision-making would have been feeble at best. Making these important mindset shifts changes everything and it’s worth it!

I am so inspired by the transformative shifts they ask us to embrace that I’m going to frame my thinking around their inspired #G2Great chat tweets. As I perused their words of wisdom, key ideas began to emerge in the form of Steps to Embrace Change as a visible transformative reference. Since their tweets were so expansive in thinking, I could have used different examples to support each step or even used them interchangeably. My examples are those that first gently nudged my thinking with additional tweets at the end of this post I hope will gently nudge new thinking for you as well.   

Seven Steps to Embrace Change

#1: Embrace your own ‘letting go’

In our opening quote, letting go of “old habits and beliefs” is a precursor to the transformative change process we are invited to embark upon. Peter highlights that letting go of managing and control frees us to create rather than limit the engaging opportunities that will keep students at the center of the learning process. Kathy asks us to reconsider a day filled with teacher talk so that we can trust the impact when student voices fill the learning air and inform our thinking as they engage in opportunities to learn together. 

#2: Embrace Professional Learning

While Peter’s tweet was actually focused on letting go, it’s also a reminder that taking responsibility for our professional learning is essential to the change process. The teacher vignettes in this book are a perfect example since they were the result of long-time professional learning and support. Kathy reminds us to find professional co-conspirators who value their own learning and will read, study, initiate, learn and grow side by side with us as we multiply and enrich our shared growth process.

#3: Embrace Intentional Decision Making

Peter is asking us to examine our habits by paying attention to children who beckon us to make student centered instructional choices on their behalf. This requires us to be curious kidwatchers who use what we notice as a reflective mirror to change. Kathy adds to this kidwatching mindset by asking us to turn our thinking inward as we use this to envision day-to-day decision-making from the eyes of our learners. 

#4: Embrace Shared Responsibility

Peter reminds us of the impact of engagement when we are willing to begin to transfer responsibility to students. Giving students increasing control allows us to support their efforts and become a “resource for engagement.” Kathy highlights this sharing of responsibility so that children experience greater autonomy. This is not a one-time lesson but a constant process of sharing that role while also ensuring that students are taking responsibility for their growth as learners.

#5: Embrace Noticing and Extending

A central feature of Engaging Literate Minds is teachers as ‘noticers’ of student learning. Peter asks us to in turn help students become noticers of their own learning and use those noticings as a rich source of collaborative conversations that help students to become more learner aware. Kathy reminds us that noticing must also be followed by naming so that students will be privy to what we notice and can thus replicate and extend this in the future. It is this extending that is most likely to lead to transfer.

#6: Embrace Collective Engagement

I use ‘collective engagement’ intentionally as we embrace the essential collaborations that can maximize learning. Peter draws our attention to opportunities to value each member of the collective experience and avoid questions and tasks that limit their learning. Kathy’s use of “transformative” describes collective engagement within meaningful and authentic active literacy experiences. This transformational process focuses our sights on creating a culture of collective engagement rather than merely what we add into the schedule.

#7: Embrace Celebrating Literate Minds

And so we come full circle to the Literate Minds we are Engaging across the year on a daily basis. Peter reminds us that viewing children in this spirit can lead us to translating engaging literate minds into action when we make engagement and equity a priority. Kathy emphasizes engagement through experiences that will nurture student curiosity. Curiosity is the spark for engaging literate minds and it is our curiosity about children as learners and humans that keeps curiosity alive across the entire year. 

 As we come to the end of this post, I’d like to leave you with a “from the heart” message in the words of Peter Johnston and Kathy Champeau with our third question:

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

Peter Johnston

The value and complexities of teaching are generally underestimated by the public at large. It is hard work with big responsibilities and constant problems to solve. But it can be joyful, exciting work, with ample opportunities for learning and surprise. Although we show some wonderful classroom interactions in the book, and how to work towards them, they did not start that way and are not always that way. We did not include many examples that fell short of our hopes, but not because they didn’t happen. You will have them too. They are approximations and opportunities to learn.  In our experience, accumulating professional knowledge takes time, colleagues, collaborative persistence and problem-solving, a tolerance for approximation, and a long-term commitment.

Kathy Champeau 

We teachers matter. Teacher’s work is critical to who our students become, who we become, and what our world becomes. Teach with a sense of urgency. By constantly contemplating this question, “Who will my students become at the end of a year with me?” creates a sense of urgency for the work we do and the daily decisions we make. Realizing the power that we have in the lives of our students we serve can be daunting, if we think about it; however, we need to embrace that head-on. So, seek out professional mentors and experts who think with you and not for you. I believe that thinking teachers and thinking students, and teachers thinking with students, can change our classrooms, schools, communities and the world, for the better. Embrace the joyful. We have the power, let’s use it wisely. 

MY CLOSING THOUGHTS

In their final question as well as across their book and in their tweets, Peter and Kathy remind us that teaching is joyful, exciting work and that each of us have the power to ensure that joy accompanies change for teachers and for children. Since I believe deeply that joyful learning can be infused into each moment of our day when we believe in engaging literate minds, I offer a final step in honor of this critical feature.

BONUS STEP: Embrace Joy

Peter’s words bring joyful learning and teaching into full view as we value student curiosity and the thinking their curiosity can awaken. Joy happens when we step back and become admirers of literate minds as children actively engage in peer supported learning and thinking. Kathy describes this joyful learning and thinking as a process that heightens engagement in ways that will “rock their world.” What could be more joyful than that?

If you are taking time to read this post, then you value your own learning. Knowing the challenge and delight of transformative change, then you also know that you do not have to do this work alone. Our colleagues and the clear descriptions of the teaching/learning process in Engaging Literate Minds offer a change roadmap in technicolor view. It is my hope that their words of wisdom and these seven steps inspired by Peter Johnston and Kathy Champeau will support those changes that have the greatest potential to transform the day to day decisions you make tin the name of children. In the end, this important work must take place when we make a commitment to engage literate minds where these changes will matter most – in the company of the children we honor with renewed perspective.  

On behalf of my #G2Great co-moderators and our incredible chat family, we would like to extend deep gratitude to Peter Johnston, Kathy Champeau and the generous teachers who invited us into their classrooms. As I close, I can envision their professional gift in the hands of educators’ everywhere.

And that brings me great joy!

And so I give Peter Johnston and Kathy Champeau the final words.

To continue your Engaging Literate Minds change journey, join principal Matt Renwick’s book study. Use this link to see the posting schedule and sign up or you can join the conversation using the hashtag #engaginglitminds on Twitter.

More inspired tweets from Peter Johnston and Kathy Champeau

Social Media as a Purposeful Professional Learning Tool

By Fran McVeigh

On July 18, 2019 the #G2Great Twittersphere was filled. Folks came from:

Iowa,

Oklahoma,
Texas,
New York,
Alberta, Canada,

Minnesota,
California,
Indiana,
Missouri,
Massachusetts,
Michigan,
New Brunswick, Canada,
Ohio,
Nebraska,
Kentucky,
Virginia,

(and I apologize for any that I missed that you will find in the Wakelet here). Educators, teachers, administrators, coaches, college and university instructors, authors, readers, writers, and consultants. A Twitter chat about social media as a purposeful professional learning tool.

The chat opened with this quote.

Making professional connections, sharing ideas and resources and combating isolation were reasons shared by participants as evidenced in the following tweets from educators in 14 states and two provinces in Canada. These  ideas were supported by the original book study chat #G2Great.  Reducing teacher isolation is a common recurring theme.

One huge piece of social media is Twitter. Folks on Twitter know that they can find much good with a focus on following those individuals who add to professional expertise. They are enthusiastic. They share resources. They meet regularly and share ideas, suggestions, images and inspiration. But they also don’t live in a land of fairy tales. Dialogue results in sharing opinions and views. Sometimes data supports those opinions and views. Sometimes theoretical information supports the premise of the disagreement. Sharing information doesn’t always change opinions, but open and honest communication is strengthened by on-going dialogue.

A great deal of the tweets in this social media chat focused on the good that we the #G2Great users have found on social media. Not all of Twitter is a bed of roses. Many of us have had our share of questionable or even unpleasant social media instances. However, when the goal is civil discourse with responsible sharing of our thoughts and ideas, social media connects a world of ideas and a world of possibilities that reduce isolationism no matter where you live on Earth. Productive use of social media tools allows users to conduct research, reach out to experts, and ask questions. And these tools also allow people to express themselves, share their work, and get feedback and encouragement. Therefore, social media promotes active citizenship and should be encouraged. Productive social media use MUST be modeled, taught and used by students, teachers, and administrators.

Where should you begin?

Choose one . . .

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Voxer

and then to borrow from Andy Schoenborn above . . .”Listen. Dip a toe into the conversation . . .”

Start small.  Pick one idea or topic.

What do you want to learn? 

What do you want to chat about?


The depth of your learning is set by you, your current knowledge and your goals.  This “depth” can also be relative to your social media professional learning.  In a 2017 study “Effective Teacher Development” as reported here, Linda Darling-Hammond, Maria E. Hyler, and Madelyn Gardner, propose that six criteria need to be met in approximately 49 total hours for sustainable, difference-making professional learning that impacts student achievement.  Webinars, google docs, twitter chats, and Voxer groups could easily meet these requirements with a planned, cost-effective and efficient delivery system that would also reduce teacher isolation.

Are you ready to rock social media professional learning?