Tag Archives: Teaching

Learning Language

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Her eyes locked on mine; she became still.  “What is that big story you are telling me?” I asked in a quiet voice pitched a bit higher than normal.

Her brows came together just a bit as she worked to get her lips to make an O shape.  Then, “ooo” she replied

“You’re talking to me,” I answered with a little smile. “Ooo,” I added.

Again, the little brows furrowed.  “Ooo-ooo,” and the corners of her lips turned up.  Her eyes were still locked on mine.

Awe filled me.  Mabel is learning to talk.  This is how language is acquired.  What a miracle.

Some may say that  these were random baby sounds, but I know better.  This was communication between Mabel and me.  She was answering me by trying to imitate the words I was making.   Mabel is learning to talk!

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I Will Be the Agent of Change

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Trust is something that seems to be universally valued. Research suggests that increased trust correlates with increased student performance. Research reports that low-performing schools with significant gains have a perception of trust between students and staff. Even though trust is not the only contributor to student growth, it is there when there is growth.

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Trust is something that seems to be universally valued. Research suggests that increased trust correlates with increased student performance. Research reports that low-performing schools with significant gains have a perception of trust between students and staff. Even though trust is not the only contributor to student growth, it is there when there is growth.

The questions for me, a literacy coach, become: How can I become part of the solution to growing trust in my building and with our staff? Over what do I have control? What can I do?

I believe trust can start with one. The Golden Rule (not in vogue so much these day, but it is foundational to my philosophy) could be a starting place. How do I want to be treated? How could I treat others the way I want to be treated?

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Believe every teacher wants to do his/her best. Believe every teacher wants his/her students to succeed.
  2. Remember that we are all learners. It is OK not to know everything right now. It is OK to make mistakes and take risks. (Remember that I make lots of mistakes, too.) Give people space to grow and not be perfect RIGHT NOW! Let people take risks. Honor the process. Where is that teacher on the continuum of learning? Are they trying, even if not perfect, to learn…try out new things…be innovative…?
  3. Have the best interest of others at heart. Do everything I can to protect those interests.
  4. Do what I say I will do.
  5. Learn, learn, learn. Be competent in my job. Do my job with excellence.
  6. Be a person of integrity. Always strive to be honest.
  7. Be as open with others as I possibly can.
  8. Care about others. Ask about their lives, children, successes, difficulties...just care!
  9. Communicate effectively and openly.
  10. Be available.
  11. Invite others into the decision-making process, especially when the decision has an affect on them. Collaborate in problem solving.
  12. Be open to another’s ideas, even if it is the opposite of mine.

Trust is important to me. I remember times I felt that I wasn’t included or invited or cared about. I want to treat others differently so they don’t have to feel like I did.

I will be the agent of change!

The Loneliness of Coaching

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I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness of coaching.  

After our district had investigated and chosen a coaching model to support a balanced literacy model, complete with Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops and developmentally appropriate word study instruction, excitement filled me. The kind of excitement that a preschooler who believes in the magic of Christmas feels, the kind of butterflies-in-my-stomach excitement, the kind of I-can’t-sleep-because-it’s-hard-to-wait excitement! Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to continue their professional learning at The Ohio State University?  Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to bring change, with its accompanying refreshment, into her career?  Who wouldn’t want to opportunity to walk alongside teachers and reflect with them? Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to affect student outcomes on a building-wide scale?  I would!  So excitement filled me as clicked Submit on my computer.

Happily, the day came when our principal told me the wonderful news- I would be the new Literacy Coach!  Willingly, I sacrificed summer freedom for intense training.  Contentedly, I spent long hours, post-workday hours, planning and preparing for my lab classroom. Cheerfully, I taught and experimented and reflected and improved my practice that first year.  Voluntarily, I attended webinars and on-site training to perfect my craft, to prepare to be the best coach I could be. Gladly, I reflected with and was coached by the University trainer on my teaching and practice.  All this was done with the glorious vision to help teachers, to get to know them, and to reflect with them.  All this was done for the learners in our building.

Then, the reality of the rough road of coaching that stretched ahead collided with my dreamy vision.  Who would have ever thought that teachers didn’t want to invite the coach in?  Who would have ever thought that teachers didn’t want to reflect on their practices? Who would have ever thought teachers didn’t want to improve their practices?  Who would have ever thought teachers wouldn’t want to work with, get to know, collaborate with the coach?  It was like being dressed for a 90 degree day, but instead, finding a -25 degree, frigid blast bombarding you in your face!  

I have moved forward from that day my joyous dreams of coaching were shattered.  I have moved into a new reality, one of building relationships, of taking baby steps, of providing appropriate professional development, of gently nudging teachers to move to best practices, of celebration.  I have moved on to acceptance that I am no longer “one of them.”  I have moved on to acceptance that my support team is mostly other coaches in the district.  I have moved on to a new dream of coaching, a dream to help teachers shift paradigms and to embrace disequilibrium in order to grow readers and writers.  Coaching has taken me on a journey.  Coaching is a journey.  Coaching is my calling.  

But, I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness of coaching.  

Learning to Teach Writing by Slicing

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  • Writers are fragile
    • Writers take risks when they “publish” their writing.  They put heart and soul and sweat into their pieces.  They put a little bit of themselves out for the world to examine and handle and critique.  May each teacher’s words handle the writer with gentleness and care, remembering words can crush, words can uplift.  
  • Publishing is powerful
    • Writers need to publish their work for a “real” audience.  Writing is meant to be read.  Teachers need to give writers opportunities to share their published pieces: blogging, author’s chair, partner reading, letters that are sent to real people, etc.  Publishing brings power to writing!
  • Conferring is King
    • Conferring looks a little different in the SOL March Challenge, but everyone who comments on a slice is having a little conference with the writer.  Did my writing connect with the reader?  Was there a specific line that resonated with the reader?  Did the comment mention certain choice words?  The feedback a writer gets in conferring or in comments is energizing and helpful and spurs the writer on to keep writing.  Teachers need to lift the writer, not perfect the writing.  
  • The Hard-ness of Writing
    • I am a big believer in Writer’s Workshop.  My students write everyday.  Mini-lessons spur them on.  Conferences lift the writer.  Go workshop!  But NOW, I am in the trenches with them, writing everyday, although probably more than an hour.  My ah-a:  Writing is hard.  It is not easy.  It takes work and commitment and tenacity and time.  Is it worth it?  YES!  But teachers need to remember the hard-ness of writing.  
  • The “Workman’s” Writer’s Notebook
    • Writers who write everyday begin to see the world through the eyes of a writer.  Before I started slicing, I had a writer’s notebook;  it adorned my desk and came out to show students how to plant seeds.  Then, proudly, it returned to its place. After I started slicing, I have a “workman’s” Writer’s Notebook.  It isn’t fancy, sticking out of the side pocket of my purse.  Now, I’m a writer desperate for ideas, so when I see the streetlight shining through the fog like a soft, white halo, I grab my writer’s notebook and jot down the idea, trying to capture what I see.  When I hear a little snippet of dialogue, my pen flies across the page.  Now, when a memory flits through my mind, I think, “How could I express the essence, the emotion of it?”  Of course, out comes my pencil to scribble it down.  What a change from my “teaching” Writer’s Notebook.  
  • Borrowing Structure
    • I enjoy reading slices.  In fact, time flies when I start reading them.  Other slicers (I did, too) sometimes comment that the structure for their slides are borrowed from other writing friends who have posted their selections. Teachers need to help students know how to use structure as a way to generate new ideas.
  • Believe in Best
    • Teachers need to believe that writers are doing their best work.  Slices are the best work that the writer created at that moment in time.  Not one slice screams, “The writer didn’t try to do a great job.  She threw out junk.”  We need to keep the faith with our budding authors!  Believe they are doing their best.
  • The Rightness of Writing
    • Writing is worth it!  Everyone’s life is full of the stuff of stories.  Teachers need to help students understand this!  Writing gives the vehicle, the voice to those stories.  It is right to write!