The school year always begins for me with much anticipation and hope. I am excited to see the progress I know students will make and I am hopeful that everyone I work with will feel they are making a difference towards this progress. How can I be more intentional in my efforts to keep this anticipation and optimism alive?
This year my administrative partner and I decided to do something different. We decided to create a visual to track our journey of learning. Instead of talking about what we wanted to accomplish we decided to document what we wanted to accomplish. This has been an interesting experiment because I feel for me, the goal of improving student engagement in reading has not gone away. It remains in the forefront of my mind, and I believe it is also lingering in the thoughts of my colleagues. I just recently finished reading report card comments and I was astounded by the depth of feedback teachers provided to their students and parents in relationship to reading progress. Teachers seem to have grabbed hold of the goal we have set and have really looked at ways to achieve success, not only for their students but for themselves as well.
As a campus we have worked collaboratively to examine our approach to reading. We have discovered that many of the strategies we have been teaching are significant and supported by research to be important for students to know and use. We have also discovered that our understanding of why these strategies are important is key to using them intentionally to build students’ capacity to be effective readers who see value in engaging in text. The questions we have begun to ask have set us on a mission to examine what changes need to be made in our current practice. Currently we have more questions than answers, but it is through this questioning that things have begun to seem clearer. Ideally we are looking to change teaching behaviors and I believe we are well on our way to accomplishing this goal because our staff is committed to looking at our approach and figuring out how it might better serve students.
Through the reading and research I have done in this area, I am coming to know what questions I need to ask of our staff. I am asking how they ensure students are reading at their level to practice the strategies being taught. I am pointing out the components of fluency so teachers can see it is more than just a reading rate. I am intrigued with the notion of grand conversations and wonder with teachers how those can be built into classroom discussions around literature. Teachers are talking to each other and sharing their practices, and it is evident that the anticipation and hope that started our school year still exists. Teachers are excited to see their students evolve into more engaged readers and they remain hopeful that even more can be done to entice our students to be even more involved in reading for a real purpose.
Our vision remains a messy work in progress and the board we have established to collect evidence of our work reflects this messiness. Learning isn’t pretty, but when it is done collaboratively with a clear focus, it is rewarding. I am anticipating that where we end up will be a place where teachers and students see hopeful opportunities for success.