Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's official- I'm in LOVE!

Today, as I looked over my  school calendar that is FILLED to the brim with meetings and to do lists, I sighed and thought, "How am I ever going to get this stuff done? When I am going to make it back into the classrooms?" I find that so much of my time this past month has been spent taking care of "admin stuff" and taking me away from the classrooms and teachers. It is so hard to find a balance. I told myself, "No more negativity! Be positive!" Being a Literacy Coach, it's hard to gauge whether or not you are really making an impact on instruction and student learning. But today I got my answer! Today, I am officially in love!

I opened my email and saw that I had been mentioned in a tweet. (To me, being mentioned in a tweet is like signing onto AOL and hearing "You got mail!" It's so exciting!) My friend, Theresa had posted about the word choice lesson from Falling in Love with Close Reading that we co-taught today. I had been agonizing for part of the day that I had taken over the lesson, and hadn't really given Theresa a chance to add to the lesson. I felt like I had let her down as a coach, friend and colleague. To me, being a coach means supporting colleagues to take risks, and encouraging reflection on their practices. Being a coach does not mean I simply give information and tell teachers what is right and what is wrong about their teaching. If I just disseminated information and critiqued teaching, then I am not doing my job! Coaching conversations with teachers are so important when supporting in classrooms and schools!  However, even before I could text Theresa about the lesson and my thoughts (because talking on the phone with two toddlers at home is next to impossible) I read this on her blog:

I am so thankful for a supportive coach, Kara, without her forcing me (hahaha) to take this risk, I wouldn't have had this experience. Thanks Kara! :) 

This is what my job is about. By encouraging Theresa, or forcing as she says, to take a risk and implement a lesson she wasn't entirely comfortable with, she changed her students today. And I am not sure Theresa realizes this or not, but she changed as an educator today. 

As we were talking through the lesson, Theresa showed me the graphic organizers she had created, the T-charts, and the labels she wanted to use on her easel chart paper. While I validated her work, I said, " Theresa its going to be messy learning today! The kids are going to lead the structure of the lesson. We are going to have chart paper stapled up, things crossed off, and webs of words everywhere!" I saw Theresa struggling with this and she said, " Oh my! This is going to kill me! I need structure!" I have to give her credit though, she put the need of teacher control aside and went with it. And in Theresa's own words, she was "BLOWN AWAY!" at the level of student conversation, motivation, and learning. 

After our lesson, Theresa and I "debriefed" after our lesson and were amazed to realize that we only read through 5 lines of the " I Have a Dream Speech." Those four lines were jam packed with rich word choice that evoked images, feelings and ideas from the students. The level of discussion, and analyzing was astounding!! I think Theresa sums up our experience quite well: 

"... ALTHOUGH we only read four sentences up to this point my students learned SO much. We turned and talked, had class discussions, and piggy backed off of each other's ideas. We tried the answer frames as a class and these are some of the responses we heard... 

"Some words fit together like injustice and not free and made me feel guilty because African-Americans suffered in history from being enslaved to being forced to attend different schools, they were never looked at as equal."
 "Seared, flames, captivity, slaves, and withering are all depressing words because it symbolizes how we had treated African-Americans for hundreds of years and it is wrong." 

And my favorite... "The author could have used 100 years repeatedly, but used "5 score years" because he wanted to connect his speech to Abraham Lincoln's speech about the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery. He wanted to continue Abraham's revolution and finally free African-Americans. MLK appreciated the work Abraham Lincoln did and by "symbolic shadow we stand today" it means that MLK was giving his speech in front of the Lincoln memorial for a historical and meaningful reason." 

So, this is why I am in love. I am in love with Falling in Love with Close Reading, not just because of the higher level learning that the students experience through the lessons, but also because the book as taken teaching to a whole new level. This book has become my anchor in conversations with teachers. I didn't realize until today, the impact our discussions about this book have made on the teachers I work with. As teachers, we all have the common purpose of motivating students to become life long readers and learners. Just like we want  students to persevere through their learning and feel success, we want the same as teachers. We craft these amazing lessons everyday and want nothing more than for our students to deepen their understanding. Falling in Love with Close Reading encourages us to take a closer look at the world around us- to closely read people, music, movies, commercials, and video games. It is authentic learning and teaching that happens through these lessons. 

And as the students rushed our of the classroom to special, a student Carl came up to us and said, "Thank you! Thank you for today!" Several other students followed suit. That is the magic of student led learning. That is the magic of believing in your students and yourself as a teacher. 

Boy- it feels good to be in love! 

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