It's time to begin school again, and I had one conversation today about building community, one priority for preparation for the new school year. There is so much more to prepare, and I know that all of you teachers are working hard to get ready. You're in the midst of a flurry of prep, or perhaps you've just started. I want to bring up one topic today that is important to me as both a teacher of students and a coach of teachers.
There is one thing that I never changed all the years I taught. And now I use this one thing in my conversations with teachers. This one thing was posted in a large banner at the top of one bulletin board. It was discussed in numerous, sometimes repetitive ways. My one thing was a HABIT I wished to start in my students, and luckily for me, I often had about half the class returning each year, thus half already had the HABIT! What is this one thing? It's asking the questions, "What's working, what is not?" all the time.
Of course, it's not enough to tell students to ask the questions. I started discussions, both individually and whole group about what it might mean to answer the questions. If something is working, it's a good thing to ask why it's working. Becoming aware of choosing good strategies for all kinds of work for school, and what they are and why they work is also part of reflection. And conversely, if something isn't working, asking the same questions is also important, but one must then ask one more, "how am I going to change so that it does work?" And "who might help me make changes?"
You may be using different wording that will result in similar outcomes, and I suspect many of you use some of these kinds of questions already. They empower students to take charge of their own learning, a goal for even the youngest students. And using the strategy helps them learn they are able to do so. So I ask you, what is your one thing?
On a side note, what's working for me recently is all the PD I've been able to do this year, spending the day with Peter H. Johnston, attending the All-Write Conference, and now I've made plans to attend the NCTE convention in Boston, rooming with Tara Smith, of A Teaching Life-so, so exciting. If you're going, let us know so we can meet, or if you're going and presenting, please be sure to let us know so we may attend your session!