Once in awhile I have the honor of having other educators visit our classroom, room 235D. While it is always nerve-wracking to have strangers watch you teach and ask your students questions, it always leaves me feeling so very grateful for the district I teach in, for the colleagues I have, for the students I teach. Yesterday was no different as I heard the students explain why we start with reading, why books matter to them, and what learning in this classroom looks like.
Later in conversation, I was asked what drives our instruction? Having only 45 minutes to teach all of English, what is our ultimate goal? How do we possibly fit it all in and feel like we are not just getting things done? Before I talked about the standards that shape our choices. Before I talked about how our quarters are split up on their focus. Before I talked about the power of choice when it comes to what we teach, before I talked about how we listen to the kids in order to make it about them again, I knew what the answer was.
What drives our instruction? Helping kids fall in love with reading and writing (again).
Not the Common Core. Not the standards. Not covering content or getting-things-done. Not checklists, nor grades. Not comprehension or skills. Not things, nor projects.
And not just love for reading, for writing, for speaking, but for being immersed in an environment that focuses on learning for human development. Not for test scores, next year, grades, or honor rolls. Not for rankings or best of lists. No. What drives our instruction is much more simple, yet so much bigger.
Being a teacher isn’t just about teaching things, it is about teaching human beings, and those human beings need to know that what we do is bigger than a skill. Bigger than a subject. Bigger than getting through 7th grade.
So what drives your instruction? What would the students say?
If you are wondering why there seems to be a common thread to so many of my posts as of late, it is because I am working on two separate literacy books. While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher. Those books will be published in 2017 hopefully, so until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.
4 thoughts on “What Drives Your Instruction?”
Thank you for this post. We come back from break next week, and take our state test the week after that. Most of the year, I focus on what the kids need and let their interests drive a lot of our literacy time. At this time of year, however, I start doubting myself and wondering if I did enough to prepare them for the TEST. I get very stressed out as the minor things suddenly become major in my mind, and I lose focus.
In an effort to regain that focus, I’m going to the library and getting a bunch of poetry books to start our April poetry unit on Monday, and I’m going to focus on finding the joy in reading and writing right now despite the test. Thank you for reminding me of what’s most important.
I mirror what you say Carly. Always feel on the back foot re ‘covering’ what needs to be ‘covered’. The key word here is “need”. What about the kids and their personal needs? Making learning personal. What do they need? Yes Pernille, they need to enjoy their learning. They need to develop a love of reading. This is the challenge- beyond the standards, the testing, the ticking off the stuff to be covered. The stuff to be covered will happen through their willingness to read and write more. My challenge is to get over my feelings of guilt when we spend too much time sharing, discussing, analysing, dramatising a text that has engaged the kids to the extent that they don’t wish to move on…When my students and I together stop and look at the literacy skills that are being ‘covered’ seamlessly, I realise more and more that this is the way to go. I too am learning to focus on supporting my kids in ‘finding the joy in reading and writing despite the test’.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!