“There is always a need to improve and we need to be challenged.”
Donald Graves, The Energy to Teach
Briskly walking through the hall, Emmy and I almost crashed into each other. Just barely past each other, she called out to me, “Oh! Do you have a minute?” “Not really” I blurted out honestly, but followed her into her first grade room anyway. There was something about her tone that lured me in, peaked my curiosity.
“So, we used the story arc today with L, C and T. They were so good.” There was celebration in her voice. “At the beginning they used their characters names instead of just “they”. They were using transition words. I pointed to the story arc and let them talk. Then, it was so cute, L tried it herself! She was pointing to the arc as she talked about the book!”
I wanted to bottle her energetic pride in both herself and the kids. I also wanted to know more.
“So, is this different than what you were doing before?” Without hesitation, she answered, “Yes. it’s better, more targeted. Yes, definitely different.” I could see her reflecting right in front of me. “It was so short and concise and the visual really helped them understand.” Silence. I thought she was done. “AND! At the end, they were talking about how the characters changed and they were using such good vocabulary words!” “So, they were using all the morning work you’ve been doing together, too!?” “YES! They were putting it all together!”
Last week, the first grade team had a meeting where we reviewed a recent district wide assessment. At this particular meeting, we were focusing on growth. We were looking at the growth, or lack of, for all students. There were three children in Emmy’s class that, on this particular assessment, did not meet their target growth. Our conversation led us to ask the question, “What can we do about it?” The team started talking. The ideas began to swirl. Emmy shared how she envisioned these readers synthesizing the problem and solution work together with their retell work.
Over the next few days, Emmy was teaching, planning and thinking. Thinking, planning, and teaching. And then, today, it all came together in the classroom for L, C, and T, and Emmy.
If we want to grow ourselves and the children in our care we must capitalize on the energy that can come from questions and collaboration. Together, we must celebrate what we discover kids can do when we adjust our teaching.
“A difficulty is not the sign of a flaw or incapacity in us – it is an indication that we need to make a change. It’s not about who we are; it’s about what we need to adjust.” Tom Newkirk, On the Virtue of Thinking Small – Reclaiming Teacher Research, The Teacher You Want to Be