What’s Your Vision?
I am lucky to have a new job this year as a Curriculum Coordinator for English Language Arts and Social Studies in a new school district. Since I am new to the district, I found myself at New Teacher Orientation. At these sessions, the upper administration focuses on the district’s vision, and how the new teachers are going to be a part of that vision. Having progressed through the ranks with a lot of time in classrooms, administrators tend to share anecdotes about times when they helped to develop this vision, or instances in which they found satisfaction in keeping this vision.
Subsequently, I buy in.
They say good things, they’ve done good things, and I nod along as I listen. I know that this is what’s good for kids, and that I can be a part of this work.
In these initial days, I have also worked with several groups of teachers. Here, I have had the opportunity to learn about their visions and what their classrooms look like on a daily basis. I see the beginning-of-the-year excitement and the true belief that they can do good things for kids. I believe in these teachers too.
This raises a question for all teachers: As the year progresses, and demands increase, and yes, you get a little tired, what visions of your classroom will you support no matter what comes your way? What will you fight for because it’s good for kids?
A Vision for Literacy Instruction
I’d like to promise that I will uphold these beliefs in my new role:
Kids should be given an opportunity to write consistently. This writing should be varied and open to student choice. This choice may be in the strategy they use to produce writing, the length of the writing, the topic of the writing, or even the genre of the writing. Why is this important? Students who write and make choices about writing develop critical thinking skills needed in our world.
Kids should be given the opportunity to read every day. Reading can be a collaborative process. It doesn’t have to be silent and individual. As teachers, we have to expose kids to texts they may not have chosen on their own. This can look like strong mentor texts that guide writing and reading, as well as genre-specific texts that mirror student interests. This is important because students who read consistently and with variety do better in school.
Reading, writing, word study, and grammar are not separate entities in literacy instruction. They interact together and should be taught together. Students who can make connections between these topics are exposed to more real-life opportunities and will be better able to transfer these skills outside the Language Arts classroom.
The most effective tool for developing the reading and writing abilities of kids is feedback. Feedback or conferencing should be connected to standards, and should offer skills to increase the depth of the work produced. Feedback should guide students toward mentor texts and class materials that will assist them in high-quality achievement. As with all of my vision statements, students should have a choice in the feedback they take and the action-steps they enact after feedback.
These are a few of the beliefs that I will fight for in literacy instruction. What are yours?
Amy Gurney (@agurney_amy) is an ELA and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator for Walled Lake Schools. She has a Master’s degree from Michigan State University in Educational Administration and is currently pursuing an Education Specialist in Educational Leadership at Oakland University. She is a current Galileo Leader. She worked on the MAISA units of study and has studied reading and writing workshop practice and conducted action research.