Summer is a time to renew, to re-energize and to connect with other educators as we work to rethink our practices for a new school year. The #cyberPD group meets every July to choose and discuss a professional text together. This year, the group chose DIY Literacy written by Kate Roberts & Maggie Beattie Roberts and this post is a kick off to the month-long event. If you have not had the chance to read this book, I highly recommend doing so. Simply put, it is inspiring, and reminds teachers that we do indeed have the power to change the trajectory of students’ instructional lives.
As a literacy teacher educator and literacy coach, I often take a different stance than most of the teachers and literacy specialists participating in the group. I am constantly thinking about how to engage my preservice and inservice teachers in the content of our field in particular, strategic and engaging ways so they can see immediate application to their own classrooms. This book has already challenged me to think, and rethink, my practices and ensure that I am empowering my teachers to believe that they too have the knowledge and know-how to teach the students they have in front of them.
The idea behind the book is that we all can ‘do literacy ourselves’ given our teaching expertise, our knowledge of our students and our motivation to ensure student learning. In a Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers world, we tend to think that our work must be packaged and pretty to have merit, but learning, and the artifacts, of it, are messy. The teaching tools do not have to be perfect, they need to be useful. The tools in our actual garage toolbox, if used, are not polished and shiny. They are dirty, messy and banged up, proud signs of accomplishment. So I ask myself, am I ensuring that my teachers understand this important idea?
My mantra for my teachers comes from a colleague, Cheryl Dozier: The one who does the work does the learning. This book embodies that concept. As a teacher educator, I create learning opportunities for my teachers to seek out the advice of others, hit the books and go online for ways to strengthen our teacher knowledge and find strategies for their students. We utilize The Reading Strategies book and think carefully about planning instruction for students. But, I do not teach them how to mine their own work for strategies…..yet. This was a critical realization for me. How can I cultivate the DIY spirit in my literacy teacher education classes and coaching? Well, I need to first remember my own mantra: the one that does the work does the learning. While there is merit in showing students the many resources available for literacy instruction, I am doing them a disservice if I am not empowering them to realize that they can actually create their own for even more powerful results. But, before we create, we must remember that we are readers and writers first. The underlying principles of reading and writing workshop are hard at work in this book.
Inspired, I plan to create my own arsenal of resources for literacy coaches and teacher educators. I can easily envision myself creating short video clips that show teachers:
- How to cultivate a reading life and start a reading notebook
- How to write each and every day, even if only on a sticky note, and build a collection of texts for demonstration notebooks
- How to write strategies with a focus on what, how and why. (I am really good at teaching them the ‘what’, but the ‘how’ is something I need them to grapple with, instead of providing resources that do the work for them.)
- What the teaching tools are: teaching charts, demonstration notebooks, micro-progressions of skills and bookmarks.
I could also envision class activities where we create teaching charts together and create our own demonstration notebooks for our practicums. I think the micro-progressions have particular importance in teacher education. My students need to know that learning progressions are available for support, but ultimately, we need to articulate this trajectory of development for ourselves if we are going to effectively teach students along a developmental continuum.
I have one more idea I am eager to try: bookmarks. While it might seem odd at first, I really like the idea of having my graduate students choose their own goals and make them visible. Perhaps they need or want to learn more about writing mini-lessons, or word study or even how to match books to readers. By choosing a goal and make it visible to others, we strive to reach it.
There is so much to ponder and think about. Now, I need to actually take a risk and try some of these ideas. Stay tuned!