Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Teaching with Intention

As I was working on Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop, I revisited some of the wise words of my mentor and friend, Debbie Miller. 
     In Teaching with Intention: Defining Beliefs, Aligning, Practice, Taking Action, Debbie says, "When we confer with students, we're not standing above them or even leaning over, we're sitting right beside them, shoulder to shoulder.  We're digging deeper now, working hard to individualize our instruction and support children as they apply what we've taught them in large- and small-group settings." (p. 114).  This is one of her quotes I used in my new book.  I learned about the power of conferring from Debbie.
     I've known Debbie for a long time and she's one of the mentors I turn to when I find myself needing a nudge to stand firm in my beliefs.  Teaching with Intention is a book that nudges us all to identify and nurture our instructional underpinnings about children and learning.  Whether you're a first year teacher or someone who's taught for 20+ years, I'd recommend you read it or revisit it.  Debbie's nudge to "take action" is critical for all teachers today.  From Debbie, I've learned many important lessons.  Here are a few:
  • There is nothing beyond the power of reader's workshop--it is the most effective structure in which I can  couch literacy learning.
  • The language I use with young reader's and writer's is of utmost import--to guide children toward independence.
  • All children can _____! (Fill in the blank... I've never heard Debbie say, "Well, these kids are different... they don't have...").
  • The environment I create for learners has to be tempered with trust, honesty, and beauty.
  • I have to teach children to think--a natural bridge to support engagement and understanding.
  • I have to be reflective--taking a reflective stance can't help but benefit my teaching and my own learning about what is possible. 
     Pull out your copy of Teaching with Intention again.  Reread it.  You'll be a better teacher for it!  I know I am.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad that I just noticed that you have a blog. I am going to add it to my blog roll so that I remember to check in often. I can't wait to read your book because conferring is the area that I am shifting my attention to now as the major area that I want to improve in workshop.

    I have heard a lot about Miller's book but not read it. I teach middle schoolers, but I bet that it would still be helpful. Your quote about sitting side by side stood out because I have heard that a lot before and that is one of the areas that I am trying to work out. I have also heard about the advantages of going to the students; however, the layout of my room does not allow easy access to sit and confer with students at their desks, except some. I have been trying to weigh out what is more important to go to them or to be able to sit side by side. From your comment here I am thinking that maybe you would say to sit side by side even if it means them coming to me.