Last week, I filled up more pages in my notebook in four days than I did in the last six months combined.
What the heck were you writing about, you ask?
Why, #NCTE16, of course. The annual Mecca of English teachers, where we get to speak, listen, read, and write all about what we’re passionate about: students and learning.
I wrote down amazing ideas.
Endless book recommendations.
I wrote down a lot of beauty and hope and happiness, but I also heard some scary things, and I wrote those down too.
Things like teachers reading To Kill a Mockingbird–OUT LOUD! THE WHOLE THING OUT LOUD!–to their classes over the course of eight weeks.
Things like spending six weeks on a memoir unit only to produce–wait for it–six-word memoirs, and nothing more.
Things like hearing Harvey Daniels questioning whether to let students talk with one another for fear that they’ll be too hard to quiet down.
I just read Peter Johnston’s Opening Minds, which centers on the philosophy of getting students into a dynamic frame of thinking–a mindset in which all things are changeable, and that nothing is static. So, maybe I heard some things that troubled me about what’s going on in education in America, but if I think like Johnston wants me to, then I know we’re just not where we need to be…yet.
I talked with my writing friends about this. Amy, Lisa, and I spent so many lovely hours together squeezing in conversation wherever possible–escalators, restaurants, hotel rooms, Ubers, the NCTE exhibit hall. We thought, talked, wondered, worried, questioned, and quested. We wrote down many pages of ideas for Three Teachers Talk.
In our conversation about those cringe-worthy teaching practices I overheard, we wondered this: why are so many teachers afraid to change? Why are we so glued to the ‘way we do school’ historically? Why, when we brainstorm ideas, do we wonder what can go wrong instead of wondering what can go right?
Change is good, people!
We wondered–to reframe the thinking about what secondary English classrooms look like, what do teachers need?
We examined our own practices to answer this question. We found that we each relied on four things to make decisions about the learning in our classrooms:
- Research-based best practices.
- Examples of other classrooms that look like ours.
- Specific strategies and assignments to try out.
- Conversations with like-minded friends about our ideas.
And we asked ourselves: is Three Teachers Talk answering these questions?
Perhaps, incidentally, we were, but we wanted to be more deliberate. So, we’ve made it our goal to approach those themes more regularly.
On Mondays, we’ll share our responses to the research we read, the quotes we hear from educators, or the ideas we have in our notebooks.
On Tuesdays, we’ll continue to share specific strategies, mini-lessons, and quickwrite ideas we’ve tried out.
On Wednesdays, we’ll converse together in a #3TTworkshop format and share writing from our friends in the form of guest posts to show a variety of perspectives on common ideas.
On Thursdays, we’ll share examples of what’s going on in our classrooms–stories about students, successes, failures.
We hope you’ll find our freshly-framed writing helpful and thought-provoking, just as we found the things we heard at NCTE to be. Please join the conversation in comments, on our Facebook page, on Twitter, or via guest post. We’d love to hear your voice!
Tagged: Readers Writers Workshop