I'm taking a graduate class this semester called Leadership in Literacy at the University of North Dakota. First and foremost, I must say how much I admire professors that design coursework for their students with the students in mind. So many professors I have had at UND have given me so much choice in my assignments. I truly am able to pursue my "burning questions" through research, essays and projects. I think all learners thrive when given that choice. So, thank you, Pam!
One of the books we are reading is The Literacy Coach's Survival Guide, by Cathy A. Toll. I've had this book on my shelf for quite awhile and previously browsed it. Boy, I sure wish I would have actually READ it when I bought it several years ago! Big difference between browse and READ. Or, maybe, I was not ready to really take in everything the author had to say when I bought this book 5 years ago. Vygotsky's theory of being ready for new learning hit me on the head when I opened it for the second time. I was NOT ready the first time.
The big ah-ha for me so far in this book is the concept of change. We all know that, as educators, we are in the business of change. However, have we ever really defined change? My concept of change was that it was an "event". I am constantly looking for solutions to problems and then hoping the problem would then be fixed! Ta-da! Move on to new a problem!
The true definition of change (from Toll's book) is. . . that it is constant. Once we implement a change, we should expect constant changes within that change. It is not an end-all.
By understanding this, our perceptions on educational practices change from, "This will be the practice that will solve our problems. If it doesn't work, I'm trying something else," to "I believe in this practice and am going to try my hardest to make it successful. I may have to continue to refine and tweak the practice to become more expert at it and stay with it long enough to see if it is effective."
I know that I sometimes jump ship too soon after a new change (if the change doesn't work). For example, just last week, the P90X workout my husband and I were doing to get in shape caused the ultimate in soreness, so we stopped. My new thinking says, refine the change. Do it less - not every day and don't try to do everything on the DVD! Good grief, we aren't 20 anymore! Who did we think we were?
I think I may start the year out building conversation about what change means to staff. I know our staff have been bombarded with BIG changes over the last few years. Hopefully, we do not need to make any BIG changes this year at our school. This is why I love the literacy framework we use: reading workshop, writing workshop, poetry workshop, language/word studyand the foundation: interactive read alouds. If one has this basic framework understanding, they can keep refining within it.
True change also comes from within each teacher. They must decide what those changes might be for themselves. In order for them to believe in it and implement new changes, they have to own it.
Refining our current areas of the literacy framework might be what we teachers think about this year. I think if we started the year out thinking about making those refining changes (based on what we, ourselves, see as challenges) rather than the BIG ones, we would all feel a little less stress.
And less stress is a very good thing in the teaching world.