June 30, 2014

New Perspective

There are many times during the school year when I think to myself, "I am so busy that I could spend the entire day with my nose to the grindstone!"  What I mean by this is there are days where it feels like I spend the entire day answering e-mails, answering questions from co-workers, making phone calls, oh yeah...and teaching.  I easily fall into a robotic, efficient mode where I do a great job at completing my list of managerial tasks, drawing satisfaction from neatly drawing a line through items accomplished off of my "To Do" list.  I am going venture out on a limb and say that becoming a "manager of tasks" is the most detrimental thing a teacher, a principal, an administrator, or anyone associated with education can do.  It will consume you and make you lose track of something much larger than your day-to-day tasks because it draws you away from seeing the big picture.  Once we lose track of the big picture, our mission, our priorities, whatever you'd like to call it, we have literally lost everything because you can work and work and work and work some more, but without the vision, you will remain lost in work.  This is something that has become rather clear to me as I've had time to unwind and reflect over summer break thus far.

This realization fully sunk in last week when I was in Burnsville, MN providing professional development on implementing Reading Workshop at the elementary grades.  (I also provide independent educational literacy consulting for other school districts.)  As I watched my co-worker and fellow literacy coach, Jess, educate teachers about the routines that needed to be built in their classrooms in order to implement managed independent learning and guided reading with children as young as kindergarten, first, and second grade, I realized that I have been operating with blinders on.  I have been so stuck in my middle school world that I had forgotten what it takes at the elementary level for our students to become the readers and writers and the people that they are.  I had always thought that I understood how students build their knowledge year by year, but my new understanding encompasses the idea of the effect a K-12 VISION can have in a school district.  If we truly want our children to learn and grow as readers and writers, doesn't it make sense that the vision begins in kindergarten and builds year after year until students graduate from our school system?  Whatever that vision may be, it should be consistent year after year, allowing for students to build and connect to prior knowledge.  Teachers need to clearly understand that vision and have the tools and resources necessary in order to bring that vision to fruition in their classroom with their group of students.  If I, as a middle school literacy coach, focus only on middle school students without understanding where they have come from before middle school and where they are going after, I have lost sight of the complete picture.

Learning about the elementary literacy teaching framework was eye-opening to me and really made me appreciate the building blocks that serve as the foundation in the students we receive at the middle school level.  Jess and I had an awesome time with the elementary teachers at Sky Oaks Elementary School covering the implementation of a Reading Workshop/Balanced Literacy teaching framework at the universal teaching level and the use of LLI as a Tier Two intervention.  Check out our anchor charts below that were developed throughout the week with the amazing staff at Sky Oaks.  We wish them the very best in the implementation of Reading Workshop and Guided Reading next school year and had a blast being part of their journey!

Below are anchor charts made by the teachers in our professional development after reading about how to set up Reading Workshop.








The next set of anchor charts are the anchor charts made after discussing and reading about the different elements of a guided reading lesson.








This anchor chart was created during the LLI training we provided.


Finally, a huge part of our training was about just giving little things a try, and to take things day by day and do the best you can.  This became a motto for us throughout the course of the week.


Summer is a great time to take a step back and to reflect on what is the big picture and to ask yourself if what you're doing is helping to accomplish that big picture.  Keep moving forward, but make sure to make time for reflection to check in with how you are doing with meeting the vision you and your district are working for.  If you do veer off the road, what can you do to get back on?

10 comments :

  1. Ahhh sorry I deleted that last comment - I realized that I linked it to a page that was not mine!
    What I was saying was that you're so right about keeping the big picture in mind and not getting lost in the day-to-day to do lists! Thanks for sharing!
    And awesome that you consult! How did you find yourself in a position to do that? So so cool! :-)
    Michelle

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    1. Hey Michelle,

      Thanks for the input on the blog post-the more I think about it, the more I believe that districts who have a clear vision of for student learning will be most successful.

      As far as the consulting, my colleague and I were approached by a principal in another district to provide professional development on Balanced Literacy, and it is something we have enjoyed doing several times now. I also have had the privilege of providing professional development through our local CESA. I'm dabbling for now, but love the new challenge and hope to do more consulting for other districts in the future.

      Kasey

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  2. I've finally caught up to the present! I started following your blog a few weeks ago and I loved it so much I had to go back to the very beginning to follow your journey. We used the reading/ writing workshop model in my first teaching assignment in a suburban district which is number 1 in Northeast Ohio. Now I'm in year two at an urban school, teaching 6-8 language arts and the school has limited resources and I love all of your ideas. I will be trying to implement as many as I can. I have been slowly purchasing books for my CL and reading Fountas and Pinnell Guiding Readers and Writers this summer. I will definitely get items from your TpT site. Thank you so much. You're inspirational!

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    1. Ahhh! I am so flattered that you enjoyed my blog so much that you read the whole thing :). I have found that going back to read my old blog posts from time to time is fun to see where I was at and where I am now and hope that moving to the future, I just keep building, adjusting, and acquiring new knowledge. It sounds like you are off to a great start in making the jump to 6-8 LA. If you like the ideas on my blog, you should definitely hop over to my TpT store and download some freebies as well. Good luck in your new teaching assignment next year!

      Kasey

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  3. I enjoyed reading your post. One thing that came to my mind as I read about the vision driving decisions is the importance of creating the RIGHT vision. By thinking about what a graduating senior should know, understand and be able to do, a district can use a backwards design mindset to guide the development of this vision. It allows teachers at each level to understand how their work builds on the work of the previous level and how their work leads to the next level.

    I look forward to exploring your blog more. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Sunny

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    1. Thanks so much for your add-on comment, Sunny. That is definitely a piece to consider when forming a vision for the district. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and look forward to hearing from you again!

      Kasey

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  4. Kasey,

    I just came across your blog, and I have to say, WHAT AN INSPIRATION you are :) I am an "instructional coach" in my district, and my role has slowly evolved from many tasks to becoming more laser focused on the guided reading initiative that is happening in our district. I love it. One thing that I am finding is when guided reading first started in our district, many teachers were really leveling their activities, but not literature. I want to work more this year on helping teachers find appropriate reading materials to teach at each of the instructional levels. May I ask if you have a series of guided reading books that you use, or do you rely on novels and other randomly found materials? I will be checking/reading your blog DAILY! I hope you don't mind if I use some of your awesome ideas.

    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Kelli! I'm so glad you found my blog as well! It's neat that you're focusing in on guided reading. We have an F&P leveled book room. Check out the free download of the list of books in our book room: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Starting-a-Middle-School-Book-Room-Freebie-773077

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  5. I have really enjoyed this blog. The past four year I have taught PreK but, I am able to relate because I too am so busy that I feel as if I am spending the entire day answering emails and making phone calls all while managing my classroom and teaching; I to feel as if sometimes I lose track of my “big picture.” Teaching at the elementary and EC level I feel as if I am responsible for teaching students how to build on their knowledge also while giving them that “starting knowledge”. I want each of my students to grow and be effective as readers and writers and I feel as if it all starts with me. My modeling and how I approach these things helps students learning that framework that will consist year after year.

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    1. It is crazy sometimes to step back and realize all the responsibility that is placed on teachers. Like you said, that is why it's even more important for us to stay focused on the big picture. Thank you so much for sharing your comments!

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