Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Noticing Teacher

I’m proud to be a teacher.
During my first year of teaching, I realized very suddenly one day that I did not like the term “teacher”. It sounded like I was someone who foisted teaching on other people. It fell in the category of words in which the suffix twisted a verb into a person. Plumber. Baker. Designer. Roofer. They all do things to other things. The reason I did not like the term was that I did not like my own teaching. I had all the power, and I felt the students had none.
I was thinking about this while Irene Fountas was listening to some professional educators discuss a teacher’s performance as seen on video. These educators said things like, “The teacher posted the learning goals” and “The teacher certainly knew her material” and “The teacher has a fun, dramatic flair!” and “Obviously, the teacher carefully planned this lesson”.
And, Irene Fountas said, “Everyone is talking about what the teacher is doing. Did anyone notice the learners?” She elaborated: were they talking, creating, engaged? How would anyone know if these students understood the concept at hand? She continued, “This teacher could probably teach just as well if the students weren’t even there!” Thus began a wonderful and frank discussion. It’s not about the teaching anymore. It’s about the learning. What are the learners doing? What does that mean? What, then, needs to happen next?”
I have had the extreme pleasure of working with many teachers this year–teachers that really know their students as readers; teachers that are using the benchmarking kits to get detailed information about their students so that they can form instruction; teachers that are using the Continuum of Literacy Learning and all their years of experience to provide the most powerful education possible for each child; teachers that notice their students. These are teachers that make me proud of being a teacher.
Thank you!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Literacy Curriculum

In Hamilton County Schools, the literacy curriculum is: 
  • Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency +
  • The Continuum of Literacy Learning + 
  • You (the living curriculum).

In teaching reading, we really only have one goal: to develop strategic, independent readers. In teaching writing, our goal is develop independent writers who can communicate effectively. Our curriculum is entirely focused on realizing these goals.
  • BAS: a formative assessment tool that helps us learn about our students as readers; it’s primary goal is to find each child’s instructional level for our use in planning guided reading
  • CLL: What students need/are ready to learn; what to teach; what to look for/notice in our students’ learning
  • Comp & Flu: The “why” and the “how” of good literacy instruction
  • You: the professional; a noticing teacher; the one who notices student behaviors and abilities in literacy, builds on individual strengths, and develops strategic, independent readers
I found it interesting to learn that the CLL and the Comp & Flu initially were supposed to be one book, but they wouldn’t fit together in one binding. Each text is wonderful on its own but also incomplete.
Since these texts are now a significant part of our literacy curriculum (the other part being you), we will be focusing our professional learning more and more on these texts. I hope you are as thrilled about the arrival of this tool as I am! I wish I’d had it ten years ago.