Skip to main content

Please, let them (us) talk!

I spent Friday at the local intermediate school district, meeting with other teacher-leaders trained in Reading Apprenticeship. I long for these days of quality professional development that isn't scripted, is flexible, and meets my needs. The highlight of the day: getting to talk to other teachers.

The power of talk isn't a revolutionary idea. Talk, just like writing, is used for a variety of purposes: to communicate, express, reflect, defend, think, etc. But more often than not, I feel as if academic and collegial conversations are looked down upon in the field. "Talk" and "conversation" have taken on negative connotations to others in a similar way that "test" and "assessment" have with teachers.

More often than not, I've found professional development to limit talking. As a result, I imagine that limits the speaking and listening that needs to take place in our classrooms. If we can't trust our teachers to have meaningful conversations, how will that translate into the trust necessary for student success? Sure, conversations go off on tangents, but so does our thinking! It's at that moment that we have to help each other bring the conversation back to the task at hand. I would also argue that this is a valuable skill to teach students. And if people talk about other things, they are probably things that matter to them. It's then that we have to learn how to connect the things that they see as important to what we see as it important. As a colleague once told me, we all have different questions that need answering. The difficult work is getting everyone to see how each other's answers are valuable--and they all are!

In the end, I left training with a list of new ideas--a list that wouldn't have come about if I hadn't had the opportunity to talk with so many colleagues. And this is what I was promised during my training in college: a chance to enter difficult, but necessary, conversations. When teachers have the opportunity to put their heads together, we all benefit from their collective knowledge--especially when teachers don't agree. There is something magical about cognitive dissonance! Teachers, like students, have knowledge that they can share, and varied experiences that enable them to contribute to a larger conversation that becomes enriched because of said experiences. All we need is the opportunity to talk about what is important to us.

This is also why I'm looking forward to the National Council of Teachers of English's annual convention. I know I'll have conversations with colleagues that will enrich, challenge, and extend my pedagogy.

As I try to make this a year of strategic talking in my classroom and with the group of Reading Apprenticeship teachers I am so excited to work with, I end with this thought: When we limit talk, we limit our growth as teachers. And when we limit our growth as teachers, we limit students' growth, too.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Changing My Car’s Battery Made Me Think About Education

A lot of people write about how educators use the summer to “recharge their batteries,” which is true. It’s nice to have some down time to reflect and plan for the next year. It’s the one time of year when there aren’t constant demands for teachers’ and administrators’ time. No concerts, no after school events, no evaluations to prepare for.
Part of this time allows me to catch up on things that I didn’t have time for during the school year, like changing the battery in our Jeep, which is our only vehicle that has roof racks for us to transport our kayaks. We were able to get by this winter by jumping it a few times when it was really cold out, but my wife and I both knew it would eventually need to be replaced. My wife and I also knew nothing about replacing a battery.
So I turned to YouTube. And I watched video after video of someone changing car batteries in order to figure out what to do. I learned about “core charges” that auto part supply stores charge. I learned that batterie…

I should’ve taken the time

Yesterday during a teacher observation, a student asked me to step into the hall and talk with them. At the time, it didn’t seem urgent. With this student in particular, we have talked often. Sometimes it was important, other times—from my perspective—it didn’t seem that urgent. 
When I asked her if it could wait 10 minutes, she shut down. I could see the change in how she sat and participated, withdrawing into her desk and no longer asking for help from those around her. There was a noticeable difference in how she interacted with her peers the minute those words came out. 
When I noticed the change, I tried to drop everything right there and talk with her. Let’s go talk, right now, I said. No, it’s fine, she replied. And despite my multiple check-ins while she was working independently, she declined the opportunity to talk again that hour. 
Without even realizing it, I had damaged our relationship. 
We ended up talking later that the day. I saw her as she walked to her next class period…

Handwritten Cue Cards in the 21st Century

I just stumbled upon this behind-the-scenes clip of Saturday Night Live's cue card process.

This is intense writing. This is writing that is dependent upon trust and checks and balances.

Over a short period of time, skits are written, drafted on cards, revised, and the cards revised over and over again.

I also really love that SNL continues to use cue cards and not a teleprompter. Like Wally points out, technology can fail. Handwritten cue cards ensure the show goes on.

Comedy is hard work. Writing is hard work. Changes are made up until the last minute to get things just right. This is a form of real-world writing.