Sunday, February 5, 2012

Learning with a Friend

I woke up today with a headache.  Jet lag, perhaps?  Flying to Atlanta and back within 24 hours can't help but cause one, but it's worth it.  Yesterday, Cris Tovani and I presented to a group of teachers in Auburn, Alabama for their reading association's  "February Fling."  It was my first trip to Alabama and the people in Auburn were gracious and smart! It was a pleasure meeting them.  And, it was a pleasure getting to talk and listen to Cris, she always makes me think (and laugh).  I'm so glad we didn't reschedule our trip because of the snow!
     I always learn so much from Cris.  Listening to her share her beliefs about teaching and learning yesterday made me think so much about my own teaching.  She talked eloquently about strategy instruction, accessible/engaging text, formative assessments, and systems/structure/planning being the strongholds in her work with learners.  She's so wise as she works with students.  It's always gratifying to hear her talk about the students with whom she works.  She's willing to dig in and say, "What do these kids need?  How can I best meet them where they are and move them forward?"  And, she's willing to ask big questions. 
     Cris works with many students for whom school has not been as joyful as we all hope it is for our students and thankfully she takes up the reins and says, "Whoa..."  And then she guides them as much as she can in the short time she has them.  Personally, I think Cris's gifts are blessings bestowed on her students.  They know that she truly cares about them and their learning.  She works with some tough kids.
     The funny thing is, we all ask those same questions in our classrooms every day.  It was ironic that both of us talked about the practices that we hold at the pinnacle of our instruction, the ones that we are willing to fight for because we know they work with our students.  In Conferring (and during my presentation), I shared the two guiding questions that Randi Allison challenged me to think about as I was writing Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's WorkshopWhat are your guiding principles?  What are you willing to fight for? 
       Cris and I both talked about the inane things we do TO children instead of with children; things that don't move them forward toward a goal, a target, or a love of learning.  So often we let a "program" or "programming" guide our interactions with children.  Instead of taking a look at a learning target or a standard and asking, "How might I weave this into my instruction?" or "How might this play out in our current context?"
    We often fall back on methods that include no discourse, no relevance, and no thought about the very students with whom we are working.  Teaching transactions often dictated by someone who sits outside our classroom or our building.  What would you put on your list? (Dare I say, your "stupid" list?)  Things you do that you know aren't "best practice," but you do them because... because... because you've always done it that way?  I've started compiling mine...

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  • An added note:  If you haven't purchased Cris's latest book So What Do They Really Know? get it today!  It's a fabulous look at ways to "assess" students thoughtfully and wisely!  Cris and I were talking about our top ten professional texts at dinner... my list would have to include one of her three books!
  • By the way, the picture I added to this post is a doorway on William J. Samford Hall.  Cris challenged me to find a keystone arch in all the cities I visit to present... so I'm going to try!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Patrick, I'm glad to have met you last Thursday (connection to Julie W.). Sadly, I was snowed in & didn't make it Friday. But-on Thursday I was able to get a copy of your book & have a number of other great experiences. I'm glad you made it out of here on your trip. Your post is so right & I hope that teachers do begin to weave the good practices they know into what they must do because of new dictates & purchased programs, etc. Thank you also for the heads up to So What Do They Really Know.