Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Good Teaching Is A Conversation

Tuesday Slice of Life



Something I did this past week:

Last year, in several whole group sessions with teachers, I used the saying, “good teaching is a conversation”.  I believed it, and used it to help us all contribute to the current topic being discussed.  I can’t remember where I found it, but the sentence became so meaningful to me that I have it written at the beginning of my planning calendar so I won’t forget it, especially when I’m conferring with my colleagues. 

Since I’m writing this for my blog post, I thought I should search Google it to see if I could find the saying's origin.  While with slightly different wording, there were thousands of sites with references to the quote, but it seems that the most recent reference can be to an article by Eileen Shakespear from the Coalition of Essential Schools.  In it, she also Googled the idea, and found a reference to “good talk about good teaching” by Parker J. Palmer to in a 1993 issue of Change magazine.  Shakespear’s ending is eloquent:  With our colleagues, knowledge that influences practice grows as we share it and “work it” with each other. Good talk is difficult but it makes our work more powerful, satisfying, fun, and beautiful.

I met with four colleagues this past week, to talk over their goals for the year, what they need right now, and how things might work differently (if they wished) in the various literacy areas of their teaching.  I was inspired, and spoke with each more than the hour we had planned.  We had great conversations; even I would say, powerful.  We created plans, looked up resources, brainstormed about specific lessons, enjoyed talking about certain students and their abilities and needs, and shared about our personal lives.  I can’t imagine if I was sitting alone at my desk and someone told me to plan a lesson for ten year olds in personal narrative that I would create anything as vibrant and exciting as the teachers and I planned together. 

Much of our conversations included questions:  How do you see your class as a whole?  Where are the students who will need extra scaffolding?  Who will be the leaders?  What can happen to enhance different student strengths?  What mentor texts will be helpful in ____________ assignment?  Have you considered . . .?  Do you have. . .?  What time do you think you can commit to  . . . ?  What do you think . . .?

Most of our sessions concluded with some plans that were definite, and the needs of each were listed.  Some of the conversations put some ideas on a hold list, to be researched a bit more by each of us, with a deadline for completion.  All of the conversations were learning ones between colleagues.  We listened, questioned, considered, disagreed or agreed, and we had a really good time doing it.

I am so happy I have a job where I may have many, many good conversations, and hope always that they will result in good teaching, as that saying goes!

12 comments:

  1. What a great sentence! I will be using this when I work with teachers. It reminds me of James Britton's saying "Reading and writing float on a sea of talk." It sounds like you had some great collaboration, this will be a good year!

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  2. I think your piece captures the essence of coaching. There are lots of books and articles about how to coach but it is a job that requires us to be present in the moment, just like being in a conversation requires us to be in the moment. Lovely piece, Linda. I plan to share your thinking with my fellow coaches. :)

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  3. Thanks for sharing this sentence. We are lucky to have jobs with many good conversations...and even more fortunate to have some conversations here in cyberspace. Lucky us! :)
    Ruth

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  4. You are lucky to have colleagues who believe in the connection between good conversation and good teaching. What a wonderfully supportive group of educators!

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  5. Good conversations come out of sharing something. Teaching is truly sharing a lot of ideas and things. I miss that in my retirement.

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  6. I totally agree with Tam. I miss this already in retirement. Loved the collaborative conversations. Hope you have a great year. Sounds like it is off to a good start!

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  7. Your colleagues are lucky to have you. You have initiated and sustained good conversations. It's not that easy. I wish you will have an exciting year. The start is really promising.

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  8. I love the way in which you phrase your questions for colleagues because you are mindful of the best way to start real conversations that allow for both parties to participate. You ask what about what they've been thinking, what they've considered or possibly haven't considered. In what you do say, I hear what you don't say too - the types of things that end conversations like - I would . . . or I suggest. You are masterful at the talk that good teaching is built upon.

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  9. I agree with Mardie's comment. Your questions struck me, as they lead to good conversations. My goal this year is to listen more and speak less. I often want to jump in with an idea when I don't think they are completely finished with their reflection. Loved your post! I will be mindful of this. :)MaryHelen

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  10. Just what I needed to pass on to my principal on the eve of our first teacher's meeting. Love it.

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  11. Inspiring! The students in your school are so lucky to have teachers who collaborate so purposefully to help them!

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  12. I was just talking today about the importance of conversation in learning. Your slice expressed what I wanted to say...but I was not as articulate as you. Thank you.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!