When I was returning to the classroom last summer after spending three years as a literacy coach, I wanted to inundate myself with the current trends and topics but more importantly, create a network of support from other teachers. Of course, I still read books from the likes of Gallagher, Marzano, and Beers but I wanted to do something different. To social media I went, specifically to Instagram. I followed teachers in elementary to high school, California to New York, and from various content areas because you never know where inspiration will spark.
Almost a year later, it was one of the best moves I made even as a semi- veteran teacher. Keeping in mind that a lot of newbie teachers use social media as a platform for advice and support I want to share this one tidbit that I have gleaned over the last 7-8 months: It's OK that your classroom do not look like others.
I have been there too. Saw an activity for a lesson or something to use for classroom management and it didn’t work the way it worked in someone else’s class. Or the ideas you see and in your head think, “my kids would never go for that!”
Luckily in between scrolls, I take time to read and re- read professional developmental books. Recently I went back to one of my staples, “What Really Matters for Struggling Readers” by Richard Allington. (Allington is one of those names who have defined and shaped what quality reading instruction should be). In this book, he is challenging educators to be mindful of the propaganda by politicians and textbook sellers when it comes to reading education and stay focused on what students need from their teachers.
Many things of course stood out and one that connected with me is his mention that “with all we have learned, there still exists no simple blueprint for restructuring schools, classrooms, and lessons. Perhaps that is because blueprints differ for virtually every building constructed.” (pg.9)
Each and every student is different. With eight periods of students, all of them are different. Each school in my large school district is different. Allington concludes that “we may need to build different classrooms and lessons for different students in order to meet the challenges that confront us” (pg. 9).
Learn from others, build upon great lessons that teachers share, stretch yourself and your students, and do not limit them because they will surprise you. My students still ask for another book tasting because they enjoyed the one we did in the beginning of the year. But most importantly, know your students and their needs.
Allington further reminds us that no teachers are exactly the same. That “to teach in ways that contradict their beliefs and understandings about teaching, learning, and reading and writing” (pg. 22) would be “going against the grain.”
So, to all the new teachers and not so new teachers, this is what I say: Know thyself. Know the type of teacher you want to be and the type of teachers who have inspired you. Know that ALL students are capable. Seek knowledge. Know your craft. Surround yourself with people who do the same.