Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ten Things You’ll Want To Read This Summer

Whether summer means time to read for fun or to prepare for teaching in the Fall, I bet you’re beginning to gather that reading list.

You probably know where to find details on the year’s award-winning children’s and teen books. You can always check the NCTE Online Store for the newest pedagogical books and some great bestsellers. And I bet you plan to spend some time this summer digging into the constantly expanding resources on the ReadWriteThink site.

Maybe you’re looking for something new though. How about some online resources to explore? Here are some great sites you’ll want to read and explore this summer:

  1. The Goddess of YA Literature
    Blogger Teri Lesesne posts excellent reviews of young adult novels regularly. You can keep up with the newest books as well as find titles to add to your reading list. Be sure to check out her Picture Book Monday category for fast recommendations on books you can use with students from kindergarten to college. Looking for more blogs? Try YA Books Central Blog, Abby the Librarian and Charlotte's Web.
  2. Profhacker
    Just settling into its new home with The Chronicle of Higher Ed, this must-read blog shares “tips, tutorials, and commentary on pedagogy, productivity, and technology in higher education.” Recent entries have explored Effective Summer Planning and Modeling Civility and Use of Evidence in the Classroom.
  3. TEDTalks
    Spend some time viewing videos of the wonderful conversations that are part of the TED program. Any of the videos is bound to get you thinking, but be sure to look for useful “Ideas Worth Spreading” in those tagged Education, Writing, and Literature.
  4. inkpop: The Online Community of Rising Stars in Teen Lit
    Want to read young adult texts so fresh they aren’t even on paper yet? This HarperCollins site always has five texts available for reading and commentary. Meant to supplement the publisher’s submissions process, the site also gives teens and teachers access to the freshest drafts out there.
  5. Text Messages: Recommendations for Adolescent Readers
    Listen to this monthly ReadWriteThink podcast for recommendations on great books you can share with young adult readers. The most recent episode focuses on New Voices in Young Adult Literature.
  6. Chatting About Books: Recommendations for Young Readers
    ReadWriteThink’s monthly podcast on children’s literature for ages 4 through 11 discusses resources related to a specific theme and includes suggestions for related activities. Check out Shiver Me Timbers: Books About Pirates or Chapter Book Series Worth Starting for some great reads.
  7. One Book, One Twitter (1B1T)
    Based on the Big Read projects, 1B1T is connecting readers across the Internet. There’s a School Library Journal article that explains the project in more details. To see it in action, check the community discussion now going on about Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. It’s a great demonstration of how online tools can bring readers together!
  8. The Daily Riff
    Looking for a new approach to educational news? The Daily Riff promises to “‘sniff and sift’ through our edu-culture, ‘curating’ news and opinion in quick, digest-sized take-aways for you to use and share.” You may not agree with everything you read, but you’ll find some provocative (and cool) stuff.
  9. Edutopia
    Check in on the work of the George Lucas Educational Foundation for inspiring classroom success stories, educator blogs, and special reports. Try the Magazine link for new resources each month. Right now, you can read about College Applications and Improving School Communication with Google.
  10. National Gallery of Writing
    Get lost for a while reading the submissions in the gallery exhibits. Browse the galleries or search for something specific. Either way, there are some excellent texts waiting to be read!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Literacy Coaching: Empowering Teachers as Agents of Change

Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend a talk given by Diane Stephens, who was sharing her research on teachers’ attitudes toward literacy coaches in the South Carolina Reading Initiative. While I found value in the entire presentation of her findings, I’ve been mulling over this particularly powerful observation that she offered near the end of her presentation: “Change looks like agency.”

We know that in K-12 classrooms, change often looks far more like disempowering chaos than it looks like agency. From year to year, teachers are assigned different grades or courses to teach, or different spaces in which to teach them; curricula are adopted and abandoned; administrators come and go. From day to day, the composition of any one class changes with absences and transfers; from moment to moment, with late arrivals and early departures, mood swings (student and teacher), and shifts in activity.

I find it valuable to think about my work as a literacy coach in the terms Diane offered: helping teachers (amidst all of the day-to-day change that characterizes life in a school) become agents of reform in their own classrooms—to use student work to help them identify specific needs for change, and then to collaborate to plan for, enact, and reflect on that change.

As I learn more about the political history of this job called “literacy coach,” I’ve come to understand that not all coaches have the luxury of positioning themselves as teacher empowerers or supporters of change through agency. I won’t go into the gory details here, but reading the online comment sections on some recent findings about the efficacy of literacy coaching has been quite educative.

As a coach, I keep NCTE’s Principles of Professional Development posted near my desk, and I pay special attention to the principle I find most central to my work and highly resonant with Diane’s closing remark: “Professional development treats teachers as the professionals they are.”

Over the next few weeks while I’m wrapping up coaching cycles with some teachers, I’ll also be meeting with other teachers to start planning for next year. My mantra in those conversations as I listen carefully to them talk about their professional learning plans for the coming year will be “Change looks like agency.” What a great process to be a part of.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Do You Appreciate in a Teacher?

This week in the United States is Teacher Appreciation Week, a time set aside each year to honor the hard work that educators do every day in the classroom and beyond.

The challenge of the celebration is to try to remember every teacher I need to thank. I don’t have a list of them all, and I’m afraid I’ll leave someone out.

I’ve been puzzling over the problem for several days and peeking at resources on the PTA website for a solution. That’s how I happened upon the PTA’s Teacher Appreciation Week Polls. Their poll about teacher characteristics captured my attention:

[Poll also available on the PTA Website]

Last time I looked, the response “Communication” was in the lead, but the stats seem close and may have changed by the time you read this. After all, a teacher really needs all those qualities to excel—and a few more.

A teacher needs to understand a lot of content material. She needs a giant dose of compassion for students and colleagues. And she has to love the job.

So many of the teachers I have known have all those characteristics. Even if I had the entire month of May, I could never name them all.

There have been (and are) so many teachers in my life. You have inspired, taught, and mentored me. How can I possibly honor you all? I’m turning to the power of social networking.

I’ve posted this little thank you on Facebook and Twitter:

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Here's to all teachers everywhere. Thank you for everything you do. (Please repost!)

Help me spread the word. Please repost the greeting and make sure all the teachers who touch our lives know how much we appreciate them.