#cyberpd 2017: Dynamic Teaching For Deeper Reading #1

Reading anything by Vicki Vinton, whether her books or her blog, always has the effect of making me sit up just a bit straighter and think a whole lot harder.  So, this is exactly what I have been doing since I turned my summer reading attention to her latest book, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading, our #cyberpd book for this summer.

Section One (Chapters 1 through 4) presents  an argument for a shift in the the way we teach reading, from a “skills based to a meaning-based focus”, from “direct instruction to an inquiry or problem based approach”, where we teachers practice “shifting the emphasis from complex texts to complex thinking”.   This “problem based approach to teaching reading” Vicki maintains, does more than just help our kids to become better readers, it helps build habits of mind that make them better thinkers, too.  Instead of teaching discrete strategies and concepts in isolation she posits (i.e. those mini lessons with their attendant charts), let’s make a shift so that the text sets the agenda and the reader is put

in a problem-solving stance where you read not to practice a strategy or a skill or to answer a text dependent question, but to wrestle with the “real problems” these texts posed, which … entailed figuring out what kind of world you were in as a reader and why the characters were doing and feeling what they were.  And by fitting pieces of the text together and using whatever strategies you had up your sleeve, you developed a first draft understanding of the big picture whole. (pg 11)

This is a stance that appeals to me because it calls on students to dig into the text and go through the messy process of figuring things out themselves, rather than assuming a teacher dependent and centered one in which they are looking to me for problem solving and using terms I  give them through my mini lessons.  I think there is great of merit to what Vicki says when writes about scaffolds as “shortcuts for more complex work”, in that we teachers want our kids to succeed in their reading tasks so much that we over provide these scaffolds and thereby create dependency rather than independence.

I love each element of the five steps she provides on page 24, especially #3:

Instead of launching independent reading with a mini lesson where you demonstrate a strategy or skill, remind students of what they have already done and experienced in the read aloud and invite them to deliberately try to do that same work in their independent books.  This acknowledges that it’s far easier to transfer and apply something you’ve already done before than something you’ve just watched and heard.

Thinking about what this will look like and sound like in my sixth grade classroom, I can see that it makes the work of our readalouds that much more intentional and powerful – this is where the reading thinking and concept naming is introduced, mulled over, problem solved together first, before students return to their own reading to practice and practice and practice again.  The goal is to help our kids become first comfortable with and then adept at this approach to their reading lives; this shift in approach, though worthy, is also risky, as Vicki acknowledges: “readers will need to experiment, explore, and test out a variety of ideas, not all of which will pan out, and your challenge will be to figure out how to gently steer the class while preserving the agency of all of your students as readers, which initially can feel daunting.” (pg. 13).  True.  But the best teaching I have done has always begun as a risky endeavor – one in which I have to have faith not only in the soundness of the teaching idea to begin with, but also in my students’ capacity to take that learning risk and run with it.

I loved Vicki’s validation of creative thinking as being as important to reading work as critical thinking:

On the one hand, these two types of thinking can seem like complete opposites: One’s objective; the other is subjective.  One is closed, the other is open-ended. However, I believe that creative thinking is actually the invisible and often unrecognized thinking that helps readers eventually make more nuanced and insightful judgements and claims.  Or, put another way, thinking creatively is the behind-the-scenes work that’s needed for students to more thoughtfully complete many of the Common Core-style tasks they’re being asked to do.” (Pg 34)

I spent a great deal of time studying this chart, and thinking about the best conversations I’ve had with my students over the past school year:

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and came to realize how much the creative thinking part engaged my kids in their books and kept them invested enough in the text to want to do the critical thinking part, which then led to great conversations and also more meaningful writing about reading.  Yes, I want my kids to feel confident and capable in their reading skills so that they can answer those awful PARCC questions, but, above all, I want them to care about their reading lives and to be deeply committed to the idea of growing as readers.

Finally, I was moved by Vicki’s thoughts about “the power of language to reposition”.

But what if, instead, teachers expressed uncertainty in response to students’ questions and then asked how they might figure something out? That language sends a very different message about who students are and what they’re capable of doing…That language also invites students to see us not as authority figures who hold all the answers and power, but as learners who are sometimes unsure and must figure things out as well…Rather than showing students how to do a strategy or skill, we’re implicitly modeling how to be something.  Specifically, we’re modeling the dispositions and habits of mind of complex thinkers, readers, and learners who are comfortable with  uncertainty and know that stumbling is simply a part of the process.” (pg. 53)

This is the “where it gets messy” part for us as teachers – making the shift from sage on the stage to a more collaborative form of teaching.  It’s easier to say, “here’s the strategy, now use it” to “hmmm, let’s see if we can all figure this out together.”  But, it’s through the latter kind of learning opportunities that learning really sticks for our kids; they tend to remember those collaborative learning moments much more clearly – which is our goal, after all, learning that sticks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disrupting my teaching and reading thinking with “Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters”

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For some time now, I have been looking forward to  summer  when I would have the quiet time to devote to Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s new book, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters.   I knew that it would be a book that would leave me thinking about my reading workshop practices with a more critical lens, and one that would challenge me to do better. Where  Notice & Note  and  Reading Nonfiction  gave me new strategies through which to teach meaningful reading, and the thinking behind these strategies, Disrupting Thinking asks me to go one step further and teach towards change:

We argue that the ultimate goal of reading is to become more than we are at the moment; to become better than we are now; to become what we did not even know we wanted to become.  The transactions we have with texts might enable us to do that.  If we read actively, assertively, thoughtfully, responsibly, then any text we read may offer us the possibility that we can reshape ourselves…

Our students, however, too often go to reading expecting a grade not growth.  So, we want to disrupt the thinking kids are doing as they read, thinking that is primarily focused on helping them extract evidence from a text.  We want them aware of the possibility that reading may – perhaps should – give them the opportunity to reshape themselves.  We want them to realize that reading should involve changing their understandings of the world and themselves…We want to ask students to be open to the possibility that a text might be disruptive, and that it is this disruption that gives them the opportunity to learn and grow. (pgs. 59-61)

This is a tall order, but Kylene and Bob, writing with their customary style which manages to be both scholarly and grounded in research as well as humorous, make their case in a systematic and compelling way.

Part I: The Readers We Want  discusses the three aspects we wish to see in both our students and ourselves as we read: being responsive, responsible, and compassionate. Here are some ideas I tagged:

When the reader notices what’s going on inside himself and feels the emotion or raises the question that the text evokes, he is doing more than simply decoding, more than simply word calling, more than simply memorizing what the text offers him. He is instead opening himself up to the text, interacting with it, accepting its invitation into the fictional world or – if it’s nonfiction – recognizing its intrusion into his world, and using it to help him make sense of his own experience. This responsive reader is aware of the effects a text has upon her and the response it evokes… (pg.25)

This kind of intentional, introspective responsiveness is something I need to teach towards much more than I presently do.  “Why did this character/action/scene/problem/resolution make you feel this way and what does that say to you? How might this have changed your perspective about something in your own life?” will be the entry point to rich discussions, as well as build upon the notion that reading changes us.

Our students…come to class, too often, ready to assert that whatever they think, whatever they have come to believe, is flatly, simply, indisputably true and correct.  They are often much more willing to defend their thoughts than to reconsider and perhaps modify them.  And they should, of course, defend and protect what is reasoned and defensible.  But to hold on to ideas when  evidence and research suggest that a change is sensible is to fail to be responsible to oneself.  Somehow, we need to teach them to value change.  Not change for change’s sake, but change that results from more information, a richer understanding, a sharpened perspective. (pg. 38)

I believe now, more than ever, it is critical to teach towards this idea of teaching towards responsible reading.  This chart shared by Kylene over Twitter before Disrupting Thinking was published became a familiar one in our classroom:

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It led my sixth graders to look closely at sources, at the presence of extreme language and what we might be wise to read into that. and at the response it elicited.  We were often surprised at the conclusions such reflections led us to – in other words, how it changed our perspective and made us more insightful readers, aware that all writers come to their task with biases we need to take into consideration, sources we need to question.  I loved the fact that Kylene and Bob made note of the fact that responsibility takes stamina – if we care about the issues of the day, and as citizens we should, then we must cultivate this stamina.

The more capable readers are of compassion, the more likely it is that they will be able to read well.  Compassion should sharpen the readers’ ability to see other points of view, other perspectives, and to imagine the feelings of those who hold them.  It should enable readers to take, if only momentarily, the perspective of someone else and thus better understand motivations and thinking. (pg. 45)

In a recent podcast about summer book lists I listened to, I was struck by the call for books that were empathetic – that called for the reader to bring the compassionate stance to his/her reading as a way of moving forward in an increasingly destabilized and uncertain world.  This important work needs to begin in our classrooms, with our youngest readers.

Part II: The Framework We Use: walks the reader through strategies we can use in our classrooms to nurture responsive, responsible, and compassionate readers.  The fiction and non fiction signposts, as well as the “Three Big Questions” are essential elements of my sixth grade reading workshop, but I especially loved the inclusion of this newer strategy:

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I loved using this framework with my kids, as Kylene and Bob write:

…we read to do more than learn from the text; we read to do more than enjoy the text. We read to learn more about ourselves. We read to become more than we knew we wanted to be.  (pg. 71)

It was that last aspect that was a game changer in my classroom – the idea that we bring our hearts into our reading lives, we read to be changed and to grow as individuals.

Part III: The Changes We Must Embrace was a thoughtful discussion and analysis of big changes that must take place and assumptions that must be challenged: how we teachers can go from “best practices” to “next practices”.  This would be a wonderful section with which to frame discussions among our literacy colleagues.  The issue of relevancy really spoke to me, because I believe that my kids are most engaged when the learning in our classroom is made relevant to them; whether it’s teaching about the Constitution or reading John Green, my kids are most “with me” when they feel the content of our work together speaks to them:

…the issue of relevance is relevant.  It can shape the way we choose texts for students, the way we invite students to choose the texts that they will read independently, and the approach we take to all of that reading.  The issue of relevance reminds us that the work children do in  the classroom should be significant to them, not simply preparation for something significant they will undertake years in the future.  If they are to undertake anything significant in the future, it will be because they have learned the importance of significant work early on in their schooling. (pg 122)

Disrupting Thinking was a fitting start to my summer PD adventures, and now that I’ve read it I want to keep the thinking it has inspired growing by participating in the FaceBook book group, as well as the Twitter chat Kyle and Bob will lead on #G2Great.

 

NCTE Summer Book Club: Part Three

NCTE Reads

For the NCTE summer book club, we are reading Jennifer Buehler’s Teaching Reading With YA Literature: Complex Texts, Complex Lives.  This week we read chapters 5 and 6, and here are some ideas I tagged:

The power and effectiveness of the books and our teaching hinges on the tasks we design for students…far too often our classroom tasks engage students in either personal work (such as journal entries focused on connections between their lives and the text) or analytical work (such as five paragraph essays). Rarely do we invite students to blend these different dimensions of reading into one.  Our use of these tasks keeps the pedagogical binary in place, and yet year after year we continue to rely on them.  (pg. 91)

This teacher is guilty as charged.  This “pedagogical binary” that Jennifer Buehler writes about is an area I have struggled with especially when it comes to classroom tasks. We grow only if we are honest about our practices, and these two task and assessment oriented chapters had particular resonance and immediacy for me.  I have take the path between personal work and analytical work myself, alternating between the one and the other in the hopes that my kids would learn and grow as readers, doing the personal and the analytical in separate ways.  These words (and chapters) will be ones I will return to again and again this summer as I craft the way forward.

YA pedagogy calls teachers to create tasks that link these modes of reading to parallel kinds of relevance: personal relevance, in terms of students’ interests and needs as individuals; academic relevance, in terms of students’ current and future success in school; and social relevance, in terms of students’ relationships with others and larger real- world contexts.  By emphasizing relevance, we encourage students to cultivate the habit of applying literary concepts and literary ways of thinking to books they choose for themselves so that they’ll read those books with increasing skill and insight…The result of this approach is that students develop greater agency and autonomy as readers.  (pg. 109)

And yet it is this personal dimension of reading that our assessment is least likely to explore, or even consider.  It’s the great irony of teaching.  We want students to love books as we do…And yet if students are able to find and make their own personal connections, we don’t give them much room to show it.  (pg. 112) 

The tasks Buehler writes about demonstrate how these three parallel relevances can be interconnected so that students can exert choice and personalization when they weigh their assignment options.   This personal, social and academic triad of relevancies gets to the very heart of what makes  YA literature such a powerful way to both reach our kids as well as teach our kids.  My sixth graders are at the very beginning of that time in life when kids are ready to explore books as the key to understanding social and personal precepts; they are also developmentally ready to think about those abstract ideas that define academic thinking.  I loved reading about each task, and seeing how they played out in the real world setting of the upper middle school and high school teachers who shared their experiences with Buehler.  I can’t wait to begin working on adapting these tasks for next year!

And yet it is this personal dimension of reading that our assessment is least likely to explore, or even consider.  It’s the great irony of teaching.  We want students to love books as we do…And yet if students are able to find and make their own personal connections, we don’t give them much room to show it.  (pg. 112) 

Assessment ends up being one more place where we reinforce the binary paradigm and limit our opportunities for authentic teaching. (pg 113)

It was difficult to read these words, because my assessment practices have not always (and with consistency) aligned with this pedagogical vision.    Agency and autonomy in reading are absolutely linked to the purpose and meaning making our kids bring to the task, but agency and autonomy in a classroom are dependent upon us, their teachers.  We have to change our thinking not only about the tasks we assign, but also about the way we encourage and honor independence in the way we assess those tasks.    There was much food for thought and practical advice in this chapter.

Here’s our discussion assignment:

 

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As I’ve said above, I tend to practice within the paradigm of the pedagogical binary Buehler advocates against: some of my tasks are personal and allow choice and creativity, but some of my tasks are purely academic (the five paragraph essay analyzing theme, for example.  My personal preference, which is also my students’ preference is for the former, but I also know that my seventh grade colleagues will be counting upon me to teach my kids how to write that five paragraph essay in a very particular way;  I feel that it’s therefore my responsibility to teach my students how to deliver what they will be called upon to deliver: the standard five paragraph, with thesis statement and evidence written in conformity with seventh grade expectations.

I LOVE the ideas in chapter five, and know that my summer work will focus on understanding and practicing these tasks for myself so that I can figure out what they will look like in my sixth grade classroom.

DigiLit Sunday: Historical Fiction and Digital Writing – Notes from #TCRWP

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Digilit Sunday was created and is hosted by Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche – join us and share your digital teaching ideas

Our historical fiction unit of study has always been one of the most looked forward to events in my sixth grade classroom.  However, I always felt that there was something missing at the end, some element that needed to be present in order to make it feel like an unqualified success.   So it was with great anticipation that I attended Maggie Beattie Roberts’ session “Blending Research and Literature:Teaching Across Historical Fiction Book Clubs, Reading Like a Writer in Clubs, and Writing Digital Historical Documents” at yesterday’s TCRWP Saturday Reunion.  I always learn something smart and inventive whenever I visit Maggie’s blog (co-authored by Kate Roberts) Indent, so I was sure I’d have the same experience at her session. I was right…and here are three “big ideas” that I walked away with:

Using digital texts to preview historical fiction work:

As Maggie put it: “Reading historical fiction is entering a land you will never exist in” , so  examining digital texts is an effective way to prepare for that kind of reading.  We watched the first few minutes of Downton Abbey, and were tasked to work with a partner to take note of the point of view of the story and the artifacts we noticed.

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I was amazed at how much historical evidence we were able to pick up through this exercise, especially as Maggie cued us with focused questions as we watched: what kinds of technology was present? what was the point of view of the camera? how do we “meet” people in the movie? how are characters introduced? This would be such an interesting and engaging way to begin our unit, especially because it would allow my kids to see that, as they read, they need to be aware of all the signposts that point to the historical time frame and context of their story.

Next, we talked about the other elements of historical fiction that readers need to be aware of and alert to at the  beginning of the story.  This kind of breakdown is essential for our kids, and having the following charted and in their reading journals for reference would be helpful:

  • what kind of place is this?
  • who is telling the story? what is the point of view and perspective?
  • who is represented?
  • are there signs of trouble and change?
  • what is the main characters’ response to trouble?
  • who has power?
  • are there signs of resistance?

Forming “text circles” and shared texts to model thinking/discussing:

A shared text reading of Patricia Polacco’s Pink and Say allowed us to practice “text circles” – small discussion groups of four with each member tasked with a specific noticing:

  1. study the character traits – what are they like?
  2. how characters have/fight more than one problem or pressure
  3. how does the problem of the historical world match the characters’ problems
  4. reading ahead – what problems will the character face?

Maggie suggested some alternate ways to play with text circles:

  • each group could get envelopes with each task written on strips of paper – their “mission” for the next meeting.  I love this idea of changing things up for each of the four times we meet  for historical fiction book clubs.
  • doing a digital version of this on class book blogs, so kids could share their thoughts as they were reading, before their class meetings.  I think this would lead to richer conversations all around, since my kids will have had a chance to pre-think, and allow ideas to percolate.

Creating historical documentaries as an culminating project:

This was so exciting to learn about! So often, my kids want to know more about a topic that cropped up in their historical fiction books (yellow fever, after reading Fever 1793, for example).  Researching, writing the script for, and then “channeling their inner Ken Burns” to produce a short video about the topic would be the perfect culminating project.  Viewing the student example through a writing workshop lens, we could easily see all the elements of  informational writing beautifully executed:

  • engaging introduction
  • problem/solution
  • cause and effect
  • interesting characters/people to anchor the narration
  • varying types of evidence presented
  • usage of domain specific words
  • quotes from experts
  • a layered story to catch and hold the reader’s attention

Our historical fiction unit is weeks away…too bad, I feel ready to get going with it now, thanks to Maggie’s workshop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections: The gift of the Boothbay Literacy Retreat

I arrived at a most beautiful place…

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To learn from those I so admire…

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…and I wondered : what will it be like? what will I learn? what can I contribute? how will it shape my new thinking? clarify my  doubts? how will it help me be the teacher I so want to be?

I came away from Maine with a teaching practices notebook filled with new ideas and new understandings.  It will take me the rest of the summer to parse through my notes and figure out how these ideas and realizations will find their way into my classroom.  But I already know that I came away from Boothbay nourished and changed as teacher.

From Linda Rief I learned to give myself the permission to really write – to practice what I teach.  No more does my writer’s notebook sit idly by as I write my blog posts, book reviews, and work-related-this-and-that , these days   my notebook is out and about, written in daily, and as much a part of my every day life as reading and breathing.

From Kylene Beers and Robert Probst I learned  to listen to the voices of our children – Kylene and Bob pay attention to how our children think, and their research and writing paves the way for us to learn how how to make reading an authentic, relevant experience for our kids.  Notice & Note, and Kylene’s earlier books When Kids Can’t Read/What Teachers Can Do and (with Linda Rief and Robert Probst) Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice  have been my go to texts for shaping an effective and meaningful  reading workshop.  Notice & Note , in particular, led to so many reading breakthroughs in my classroom last year.  So, I was thrilled to have the chance to learn from them for three whole days.

Some of my jottings:

*We need to think about the assumptions we make about our students and what we think they are capable of.  The skills that we want to develop in our highest level students – making logical inferences from the text, citing evidence from the text to support our thinking, being alert to the author’s purpose and bias – should be skills we seek to develop in all our students. We need to move beyond low level skills such as identifying the main idea and going on a hunt for context clues.

*We live in a world that depends on synthesis as literacy, where literacy is really defined as reading with meaning and writing with intent.  Literacy confers both power and privilege – those who are literate hold power, with that power comes both privilege and a responsibility to share what we know with others.

*”Rigor without relevance is really hard” – we build relevance (whether it’s a short text or a long one) so that kids get invested in the topic, and we build relevance by getting kids to ask questions.  We practiced two strategies to help us build relevance and investment , the first being “Dialogue booklets” that Bob had created (these are available for viewing on SlideShare here) to:

  • enable teachers to withdraw from the center of the conversation
  • gradually transfer responsibility to students
  • to support talk
  • to respect every reader’s unique response to the text

and we also re-visited and re-examined the  old KWL chart – with which I, for one, have had limited success over the years.  Kylene and Bob began with the premise that “we’ve drawn the lines the wrong way “- we need to find a way to get kids to effectively attach new knowledge with existing knowledge – that, after all, is the definition of comprehension .  We need to “reverse who is doing the active front loading ” and to  build interest and background knowledge before reading the text itself by:

  • keying in on important vocabulary (teacher generated, tier 1 words from the text itself)
  • making predictions – using  the words in  sentences that you think might appear in the text
  • modifying predictions – after reading the text, review the sentence you wrote. If the way you used it fits with the text, simply write, “True.” If not, revise your possible sentence to fit the text.

Kylene made this point in working with nonfiction – kids are often limited by their interest, and teachers get limited by the text.  Working with the above exercise allows much more active participation on the part of students – and I am really excited about trying this out with my kids in the Fall.

*In order to read closely you have to go beyond a reading that is confined within the “four corners of the text”. Bob gave us a wonderful overview of Louise Rosenblatt’s work, particularly her theory of transactional reading.  “The writer writes the text,” he reminded us, “but the reader makes the text”  through his or her experience – it is a “negotiated understanding.”  I found this discussion such a relief after the Common Core related focus on close reading of just the text and somehow staying only within the four corners of the text.  How is that even possible??!!

From Penny Kittle I learned the great benefits of play with purpose in our reading – writing workshops.  Penny’s kids have done amazing things through creating digital texts, and she shared samples of these .  Like Linda Rief’s early morning writing workshop, we were launched into creating our own digital pieces in the spirit of do-it-before-you-teach-it. “You’ve got something to say to the world that no one else can say, ” Penny encouraged us, even as we looked around the room  in panic, thinking to ourselves: “If she thinks we can create a book trailer, documentary, rant in one day, she’s nuts!”   But, with guidance and specific suggestions about storyboarding and craft moves, my erstwhile partner Diana Marc-Aurele and I were able to produce a respectable book trailer for “Zane and the Hurricane” – a book both os us loved.  

Two things that Penny said resonated with me deeply:

“You want kids to be engaged? They need to have mastery, autonomy, and purpose.”

“Don’t let someone hand you a unit of study and say this is what to teach–you need to engage your active mind.”

My only Boothbay regret is that I had to leave on the third day and miss out on the session with Penny and Linda Rief. 😦

We were lucky to have inspirational keynotes by Donalyn Miller, Lester Laminack and Chris Crutcher, too.  Lester’s talk was alternatively hilarious and deeply moving.  It’s central message, to me, was to infuse our kids with a passion for reading by inviting them into the books we read aloud. Lester taught us the true meaning behind the Katharine Paterson quote he shared with us:”Every time we ask a child to read to us, it’s a test. Every time we tell a child, ‘Let me read to you,’ it’s a gift.”  Donalyn’s  gift for inspiring students to read  has done so much to inspire us to do the same.  She encouraged us to work towards developing independence  and empowerment in our students reading choices – the need for each student to own a personal reading canon, just as we do.  There is ” no need for stickers and prizes, when reading is its own reward.” So true.  And Chris Crutcher, well, I was so moved by his words about how teachers can reach the most troubled among our kids through the power of stories shared and writing , that I took no notes at all. I just sat and listened and felt enriched and humbled.

At the end of my last session at Boothbay, all of us first stood to give Kylene and Bob a standing ovation.  Penny Kittle (I think) took this photograph which made its way to my Twitter feed (I am in the foreground, in the purple and green sweater) :

standing o for boothbay

I’m glad that Penny did, for I was “in the moment,” savoring every last moment of an absolutely amazing experience.  And already plotting a return next year.

Thoughts about mentoring : taking a peek at Meenoo Rami’s new book

I think about mentoring a lot, especially since I have had the privilege of mentoring new teachers for the past three years.  I worry about these new teachers, so much has changed in education since I began teaching…and most of this change is not good change.  I worry about how these new changes will affect their desire to stay in education, to keep going in those early years when the days are especially long and the rewards seem few and far between.  I worry that, given all the stresses and strains,  they will tune out, give up, leave.

And, as a mentor, I worry about the quality of my mentoring. Do I listen enough? Do I read between the lines to assess what is really going on? Do I make myself available enough? Do I offer enough praise to offset the self doubts that always creep in in those early years, when no amount of preparation seems adequate?  Do I encourage enough?  Do I suggest, not criticize? And, most importantly, do I make a difference?

Yesterday, I came across this Tweet from Meenoo Rami, an English teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy and a (new!) Heinemann author of the forthcoming book:

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Meenoo’s tweet read like this:

Meenoo Rami ‏@meenoorami 
You can now download a chapter of Thrive. Pls share your thoughts via #edthrive http://ow.ly/tEHJZ  Thanks.

So, I checked out the (free!!! ) download and was happy to learn that included were excerpts of the first chapter which focuses on: “finding mentors and ways that you can maintain these relationships in your life.”  I loved the idea that Meenoo explored of being intentional about mentorship – about really thinking about the process as something  that can enhance one’s teaching lives, as opposed to something that is done to simply check off a box on the district’s to do list: every new teacher must have a mentor for their first year of teaching, for example.

Because, what happens in year two?!  I remember that my second year of teaching was much harder than my first –  now that I knew what a school year really looked like and felt like, now that I knew the type of planning that was really effective, now that I had a much better understanding of the range of learning needs I would need to address in all my subject areas… now I was really anxious and overwhelmed.   I didn’t have a school assigned mentor, and I really didn’t know how to reach out and find a mentor, either.  And so, at a very formative time and vulnerable in my teaching career,  I went it alone.  And, with the exception of the virtual PD I’ve been lucky enough to develop over time, that is still the case.

How much better it would have been to  follow the path that Meenoo Rami describes – an intentional culling together of  “models and guides for particular parts of my professional and personal life.”  And how much better to think of mentoring as a many leveled, many dimensional enterprise, one that does not end at the end of one’s first year of teaching but continues and grows as one develops as an educator.

I think I am going to pass this excerpt along to my mentee, and gift her the book when it’s published in its entirety.   It’s never too soon for her to start thinking outside the box  (our one mentor in the first year of teaching only  box) – and perhaps if not too late for me, either.

P.S.: Here’s what Meenoo’s book covers:

Ch. 1:  Turn to Mentors
Ch. 2:  Join and Build Networks
Ch. 3:  Keep Your Work Intellectually Challenging
Ch. 4:  Listen to Yourself
Ch. 5:  Empower Your Students