As I sit here after the gym on a rainy and cool summer day I had the pleasure of stumbling on my friend Fran’s blog post I love the coincidence that we share our one word at its root. I love her reflection and was inspired to do my own.
This year has been a journey for me, I had my first year working in the junior high setting after my first 7 years as an elementary teacher. I, of course, started the year with excitement. New students that were older, would clearly love reading and would love time to write, after all the students I left in grade 6 had moved on to grade 7 that way and so my new grade 7/8 students should be there too right?
Wrong, I did not inherit students with a love of reading, I inherited students that liked it enough, but enjoyed the quiet time to sit with their phones hidden in books more, that doodled in their writing notebooks rather than write and basically avoided literacy time. I couldn’t blame them. I spent years developing a way to teach literacy that worked and they had experienced literacy work of a different form. I won’t say bad, just different. I spent a large part of the start of the year trying to figure out how to reverse this attitude. I started to wonder why it was they were so resistant to change, why their previous teachers had made the choices they made regarding literacy practice, why kids prefer fake reading over real reading and why they would rather doodle than write. That “why” continued to multiple. Why do I use journals? Why do I use picture books, Why have independent reading time? On and on the whys continued to pop up and I wanted answers.
Thus my #oneword “Curiosity” was born. I have spent the year reading my own books, looking at the teachings of other teachers I consider experts in the field, those still in the classroom trying new practices, not in a research facility telling me how to do but never actually doing. I tried new things and reflected on their success and failures. I built up new practices and continue to curiously explore what is and is not working.
Some of my students changed their views on reading and writing and many have not. My friend Melinda talks about her experience with High School students and all the damage she has to reverse, practices that damage readers. I would love to find a way to help reverse those practices before they reach high school. I continue to explore ways to engage my students, not entertain but engage. This whole movement of making our classrooms a circus because students need to be entertained 24/7 is a whole different topic.
My next steps… I am curious about how to reach my students in need but also engage those who can go forward with my guidance from afar. I think The Grid Method might be the answer and I am having a lot of fun exploring it and Chad Ostrowski (the creator) is awesome to respond and help while I am taking the online courses and learning more about Mastery Learning. I love the idea of personalizing the learning journey my students are on while providing them the roadmap to meet the outcomes they have to meet. Using a bit of my summer to better my practice is something I enjoy doing every year and I have a list of books to read both professional and recreational. I plan to look into workshop for my classroom structure, I will be doubling down on Notice and Note and BHH and I will continue to explore voice and choice as it applies to engagement.
I finish with a comment on something that concerns me as I explore curiosity as it comes to learning. I caution those who are looking for quick fixes, they use to appear as worksheets, basals and computerized “intervention” that removed the curious journey learning should be, I fear they now are being replaced by the “do as I do” teaching books that are coming out like a flood. Teaching is not an exact science, I love all the ideas coming out but to just adopt anything without the journey and mindset that not everything works for everyone we are likely setting ourselves up to fail.
I am going to continue to let my curiosity guide me, to inform my practice and hopefully find the answers to reaching all my students. I am pretty certain it isn’t in “A Book” but in countless, the research is out there and I am excited to discover, try, reflect and continue on this curious journey that teaching and improving our practice should be.
Now back to watching Prisoner of Azkaban because it is THE BEST Harry Potter movie and that is what rainy Tuesdays are for.