“No one talk to me!” Lynn yells from the copier right outside my room. It’s about 7:45 in the morning and Amy and I pause our conversation, look at each other, and laugh for a moment. Amy goes back to talking and I listen as she goes over her plan. The copier stops and Lynn joins us. “So, I was going to have the kids do the trace copy cover at the end. My question is, when I am having them highlight, do I have them highlight just the ch or the sh, too? No, I answered my own question, the focus is on the ch so I’ll just have them highlight the ch.” “Yes, I think that makes total sense.” I respond.
This is how my Friday morning began. The afternoon before, the same energy was swirling as Lynn, Amy and Leigh-ann prepared for their observations.
With the ongoing conversations around reading instruction, in the fall, our district decided initially to train a small group of primary teachers in Orton Gillingham. By winter, the plan grew to train more than a small group. These teachers were trained by our colleague, and OG expert, Sally. Sally shared her wealth of knowledge and experience over multiple days throughout the year. This paved the way for for the observation portion of the training.
Amy, Lynn, and Leigh-ann, all veteran teachers embraced this new learning and were ready to see how they could bring it into their kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms. That’s were we found ourselves last Thursday and Friday – feeding off their energy and working together to plan and prepare. Together we were envisioning what an OG lesson could look like in whole class, small group and within our school’s workshop model.
We’ve been a workshop school for years. We’ve followed the TCRW and Phonics Units for some time. This OG training, which all the district’s interventionists were trained, is now spreading to our primary teachers. It’s not that we don’t believe in the workshops, but rather, that we want to be ready and able to be responsive to all children. We want to grow our understandings of all the ways and parts of not only reading instruction, but writing/spelling.
At the end of last week, the energy around learning and growing was alive. Lynn, Amy, and Leigh-ann were embracing their learning, and the opportunity to try something new. The planning and conversations were emanating from them, their training, and the knowledge that had of their own children. Listening to each of them, it was obvious that they were targeting their work based on the strengths and goals they had for their children. Amy was targeting children who, despite instruction in ch, were not automatic in applying it. Lynn was targeting not only the vce patteren but the auditory discrimination between a vowels’ sound and it’s name. And Leigh-ann was reinforcing the short sound long spelling for the ‘dge and the ‘tch pattern.
I was excited for them. When I had gone through my training three years ago, the observations were the best part. After years of teaching, honing back in on planning and executing purposeful lessons with new knowledge raised the level of my teaching. I always equate an observation to hosting a holiday or getting ready for company. That’s exactly what it felt like on Friday morning as the three of them prepared for their observations.
Amy, Lynn, and Leigh-ann were unknowingly creating sparks. The way that they shared their learning, asked questions about their plans made us feel like we were in on the learning, too. There was energy in their questions via text, email and hallway conversations. These three classroom teachers are models for how our work as teachers is better done together. These three are models for how teaching and learning go hand in hand. After all, it is our job to continue to grow ourselves and our practice not just for ourselves, but for the children.