I am so lucky to have so many other readers to connect with during the summer. They might not even know how much they fill up my tank to get me through the school year (when I feel very out of touch with other adults.) In many ways summer allows me to be the student. I am not distracted by the details and complexities of teaching, planning and reflecting. I am able to give my full energy into the learning process of any topic I desire. This summer I have given time every day to my own personal reading and writing. There are so many discoveries I am making on my own.
Yesterday, my summer bookclub met for the first time to discuss Firegirl by Tony Abbot. So many interesting themes were mentioned during the conversation. A few of us are teachers. So, some of the conversation circles around the classrooms of the agegroups we teach. However. I am finding that in well written stories, the message can be just as powerful for the adults.
After listening to each person reflect about the text, I came away with new understandings that I could not have had as well formed had I not shared the reading with a group. The reading, writing and talking I have been participating in during the last two years about comprehension continues to echo. I find that writing and talking about our learning in the context of a group deepens our understanding of text. Debbie Miller, Anne Goudvis et al., Ellin Oliver Keene theorize in their books Reading with Meaning, Strategies That Work and Mosaic of Thought: it is so critical that we continue to push our children to think on this level regularly. Practicing this simple small group reflecting, like that of my book club, is a powerful strategy for people of any age. Is it that easy? No. There needs to be trust, shared experience, positive group dynamics for the learning to take place on a deep level. Which is why we, as teachers, spend so much time on building a trusting, safe community in our classrooms. Unfortunately, this part of teaching takes time.
The time to personalize our learning communities doesn't seem to have a valid place in our academic day. At all levels of education there needs to be this "personal development" time for optimal learning. I am not sure how to communicate this to the state and my school district. When using programs adopted by schools the time to personalize is not figured into the instructional time. This can become problematic when timelines and assessment schedules are scheduled by people outside of the classroom. Teachers are going to need to set similar goals to reach the same outcomes. But with children and cultures and schools that all present unique needs, the teacher should be the one with the power to adapt information to fulfill the needs of her individual students. I continue to struggle with the calendar that seems to have less and less flexility. I am certain my administration feels the same way. With each newly revised subject area and each new program adopted the time becomes the controller of the content.
What I am learning through my experiences as a learner is helping to inform my instruction as a teacher. If I use the book club example to inform my teaching, I should be spending more time using high quality, engaging text in the content areas just as I do during reading insruction. Using the bookclub approach before, during or after scientific investigation or as we are studying specific social studies concepts with guiding and open ended questions would help the students understand in much greater depth. I hope to have the time to use this new understanding of comprehension to better guide my planning for meaninful activities with more exciting text.