Friday, January 23, 2015

defining moments

The moment I because a Social Constructivist is as clear as day.

There I was, standing at the front of my classroom. My kids sat in groups of four. They had their basal (gasp!) out in front of them and we were reading a story from the book as a whole group (the horror!) It was some kind of traditional literature story about how the stars became in the night or something like that.

I would read a little, and then as prompted by the questions along the side of the book, stop periodically to ask the questions to the kids. I would pose a question, they would think and then turn and talk, and then we would share out.

This particular day I was modeling how to draw inferences as we read. The book told me to stop at some line and then share the inference listed. But there was a problem (well, there were a few, namely 1. basal reader, 2. whole group instruction, and 3. kids didn't do any independent reading, but I digress.) At that moment, my problem was that the inference that the book publishers were telling me to make made absolutely no sense to me. Zero sense. Zilch.

This happened in my fifth year of teaching when I was in the midst of my graduate work at ASU. I was learning about best practices in teaching reading and all the pieces suddenly fit together so perfectly.

Pearson or McGraw Hill or whoever was the publisher of this book was trying to instruct for me. I had no accountability to this book and this story, because it was all laid out for me. I just opened it up and read what it told me to. And usually it made sense, but in this moment when it didn't, it finally clicked. If I want to give my kids the best instruction, *I* have to be the one to figure it out and make meaning that makes sense to me. I have to be the one to prepare it for my kids!

I can't say that from that moment on I began doing what I'm doing now in year 12, but I was acutely aware that I had to construct my lessons myself.

I still used the basal, but I prepared how I was going to teach from the stories. Before I taught them, I sat down with that book - just the story, nothing else - and I read it through. I considered what my during reading strategy should be and picked places to stop and model what that would look like. I figured out if we would do any analysis after our first draft reading and planned that. 
The teacher who teaches kids each day should plan everything out. Not Pearson. Not McGraw hill. The practitioner.

Today, I am proud to be a part of a district that operates under a constructivist philosophy. In year 12, this makes sense to me and I believe it's what is best for kids.

But then I think of our first year teachers and how overwhelming it can be. I was lucky to be handed a basal in year one, and continue using it for five years. I got my feet wet, got my management down, had the kids do worksheets and everything was there for me. It was laid out and easy. That was all well and good, but it wasn't what is best for kids.

So to the newbies out there - the ones who are trying to get everything down in year one - the ones who are exhausted and have no time to do anything but work because on top of managing a classroom, you're also trying to learn how to teach a Reading and Writing Workshop - please know that you are giving kids amazing instruction, coming from what I believe is the hardest teaching philosophy out there. You're putting in all the labor to figure out how to model what good readers do and then give differentiated instruction in your guided reading groups, get kids to love to read and write, and then having them share. You're keeping anecdotal notes and using running records to inform your instruction, and writing Common Formative Assessments with your team, and grading them and then figuring out what kind of reteaching and enrichment needs to happen - you're doing all that work plus teaching three other content areas. I, on the other hand, opened a basal.

It's time for you to pat yourself on the back and appreciate all the work you've done, because it's outstanding and you're amazing.

Defining moments...mine was a sunny day in Phoenix during my fifth year of teaching. What is yours?

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this! I will have to think about mine. It may be many little moments... Happy weekend!


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