As part of my summer bucket list to-do was to finally read the professional development books that have been piling up over the years. I am fortunate to be part of a district that spends mucho dinero on developing their teachers. Last year we were privileged to have the queen herself (#istalkliteracycelebrities) Kylene Beers, spend the day with us going over her book “Notice and Note” which we received copies of. Then during the 2015 summer, I took part in the Glazer Lorton Writing Institute which hands down has been one of the best learning experiences of my career next to attending the IRA conferences. In two weeks we had presentations from the likes of Erik Palmer and Jeff Anderson just to name a few. And of course- more BOOKS!
So to go back to my point: I have books galore and I keep adding to the collection. One recent addition was “The Book Whisperer” by Donalyn Miller. This book comes highly recommend and I wholeheartedly agree. Many things resonated with me and one of those things will be the first point to discuss with my school staff those first few weeks: Unexamined Wallpaper. What are practices that we are doing in our classrooms that we really have not proven to affect student success but we keep doing it? But also most importantly, why have we not examined those practices?
I am fortunate to be in the good position of constantly improving my craft, having a supportive principal, and the flexibility of trying good, research based practices. Yes we having a pacing guide, but it is just a guide. I know my students and I have to be able to have that flexibility to adjust based on their peculiar needs.
When you work in the fifth largest school district, you have to understand law of averages. There are those students and schools in the best of neighborhoods and those in the worst of neighborhoods and each dynamic is different. Our pacing guides and resources I understand as the “average case scenario.” My school falls into the failing school bucket. My kiddos for some content cannot keep the same pace as the best in the district and at times not even the average in the district. So those practices that might work for some might not work for others especially the students I serve. Those practices that worked ten years ago, may not work in 2016. With that being said, going into this new school year is the perfect time to look at that wallpaper before putting it up again to make sure the pattern, the color, and the texture is just right for these new sets of students we are receiving.
My personal first set of wallpaper examination will be if I should use literatures circle or book clubs in my reading classes next year. I will follow up with a blogpost on how I came to my conclusion on which to use.