Monday, June 17, 2013

Teach in Community: That’s What’s Up!

I am so thrilled to introduce my very FIRST guest blogger!  None other than ATP herself, Mrs. Litty Mathai.  She is a killer teacher and rocking partner, but she also has the BEST laugh, most photogenic children, and a million creative ideas.  She's the queen of reading workshop.  She's the yin to my yang, the slow-down-and-reflect to my go-go-go.  I have learned so much from her and am so excited to share some of her wisdom with you.  So without further ado, Mrs. Mathai, ladies and gentlemen!

So much is going through my mind right now as I’m sitting here on my front porch.  The breeze is blowing gently, the sun is slowly fading in and out, and the birds are chattering up a storm. Yes, you guessed it: it’s summer!!!!!  I feel like I say this every year, but man, this school year went by so fast! 

There are a bunch of topics cycling through my mind that I could write about. In fact, I feel like I need to do a second guest blog post for Amy at some point.  With two kids under the age of 4 and working full time, it’s been a challenge to even write one.  Nonetheless, the kids are both at a sitter, and I’m enjoying my very first day of summer, solo. By the way, isn’t Amy, great?  I love how she always shares her ideas freely and wants to build into other teachers too. There is no “I’m not sharing that with you” mentality ever.  I think that since we have been Language Arts partners the past few years, we have meshed our philosophies on how to teach Reading, Writing, and Social Studies and both of us have walked away learning at least one new thing each year.  Which brings me to what I would like to reiterate to teachers everywhere: just like we need to LIVE in community, we need to also TEACH in community.

 eaching in community has so many benefits. The first benefit is that it pushes you to try out new ideas and reflect on your teaching practices, which only lead to growth, growth, growth. I have tried out several new ideas the past few years, and I’m always glad that I did. I just completed my 15th year of teaching, and I don’t think that I could have done it without my colleagues. Sure, I could lock myself away in my room and do my own thing---and yes, there are times I do that, but ultimately, it is when I open my doors and seek out colleagues that are doing some great projects, lessons, or simulations where I feel that excitement to take on a new challenge and try it out with my students. I have always taught Language Arts on my own until the past few years, and let me tell you, I have grown way more these past few years sharing and collaborating than ever before!

Ultimately, my students reap the benefits of my learning in community. The ripple effect when teachers learn and share with each other is massive. Remember that it is  easy to stay stagnate, but much more challenging and more rewarding to seek new ideas and new endeavors!

 The other benefit of teaching in community is that it helps you continuously reflect and mold your teaching philosophy. I want to be the kind of teacher who is constantly reflective of best practices. How did that lesson go? Was the questioning challenging? Did all my learners “get it”? What evidence do I have that they all understood? Am I reaching everyone’s learning styles? How am I going to challenge that student? Did I model the teaching point well? What can I improve for next time? Do I need to stop and reteach? What modifications do I need to support my learners?   Geez, the questioning that goes through a teacher’s mind during one lesson is rapid-fire and ongoing. It is nice to stop and talk to a colleague about how best to improve lessons and units of study. You will gain new perspectives on different ways to approach a lesson. Who wouldn’t want that?

Once you decide to open your doors and let other colleagues “in,” your wall of “Oh, I got this on my own” comes down, and I promise you that you will grow as a teacher.   I want my students to learn as a community of readers and writers. Well, guess what? Why wouldn’t I expect that of myself? At the end of the year, I had my students do some reflection (yes, they take after me J), and write a letter telling me how they have grown with Reader’s Workshop. Madi, one of my sweeet students,  told me that she really liked it when we closed out our workshop lessons with a circle share time.  That’s a time where we sit in a circle and voluntarily share how our reading is growing, specific strategies that have helped us become better readers, cool books that we are currently reading, and new learning from our reading buddies. Madi said she liked it because that brief time (five minutes a day), helped her to see how other readers were solving problems or becoming stronger readers and it pushed her to do the same. If Madi can recognize the power of community to help her grow as a reader, as educators, we should recognize the power of collaboration and teaching in community.

Hope everyone who reads this has a great summer! Thanks, Amy, for giving me the opportunity to do this…feel so honored that you wanted me to share my two cents!  “Make a difference, ya’ll!”  But first have fun this summer!! You deserve it!!

ATP is the queen of clip art!  While I didn't include that in her post, I knew she needed some sort of visual.  So here are the two of us dancing it out at field day this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment