Below, I’ve summarized the top three main ideas from a short article from the August issue of the Journal of Staff Development – with the engaging title, What Teachers Want.
I’ll talk about these three ideas in terms of the kinds of staff development in literacy we’ll be undertaking this year.
So, what do teachers want, as they choose from among the MANY professional development options out there?
This study found that teachers preferred:
1) Having opportunities to connect with other teachers
Many RTM teachers have worked together for the past three years to design and implement new writing units of study, and their use is spreading. If your team isn’t a piloting team yet, please talk with someone who is – there are great things going on with this pilot! These teams of teachers will be working closely within their teams, with me, and with larger groups across buildings, in order to refine the use of these units and eventually create schools in which we all use writing workshop, at every grade level – and our students will benefit from this “connectedness” and unity of approach.
As well, we’re continuing with the use of literacy lab classrooms for reading this year. All five of last year’s literacy lab teachers have returned to their roles, and they’ve decided as a team that they’ll each focus on the implementation of a series of reading units of study in their classrooms during this school year. I know you’ll have a wonderful experience if you participate in one of the lit lab visitations this year – both as you observe in the classroom of a fellow teacher, and as you discuss best practices with the team of teachers who visits that day.
2) Crafting new methods of instruction
Again, for many months, our writing workshop pilot teachers have worked together to create well-crafted, clearly-written writing units of study together, based on the materials we already have within the district, some new materials, and some materials that other districts have shared with us. This collaboration time has been exciting to watch and join, and has resulted in the opportunity to continue to share methods and materials in our classrooms, because we’re all on the same page.
Our reading literacy lab teachers have also worked together to find and create the materials they need to lead the children through reading units of study. To give you an idea, the reading units of study in the upper grades includes units such as: Building a Reading Life, Following Characters into Meaning, Navigating Nonfiction, and Tackling Complex Texts. These reading units are not thematic units, but rather deep units of study that teach children how to develop the habits of strong, purposeful, lifelong readers.
3) Receiving support for reflection about the results of the work I do in my classroom
Our writing pilot teachers will be formally working together monthly (and I’m sure informally, more regularly than that) to unpack the work they are doing this year – talking about assessment, talking about the work their students are doing, watching me teach, watching each other teach, etc.
Our reading lit lab teachers meet frequently as a team, and an observation in one of their classrooms always leads to lively and productive cross-building conversations about great teaching.
While the writing pilot and the lit lab classrooms are two large initiatives which will take up a good deal of my time this year, of course, I’m always available to work with you on any other literacy-related questions, concerns, or ideas you might have. I can talk things over with you, co-teach, co-plan, demonstrate, or help you find resources for the great work you’re doing.