Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I just listened to a discussion with Suzie Boss who wrote  Bringing Innovation to Schools about just that, how do we make our classrooms places for creative innovative thinking? She discusses how she has done some travel writing and how her book reads much as a travel log might read. It makes sense.

Each year we move through the school year as a new and different journey than the year before. If I begin to log it from the beginning I wonder if I might begin to see and help my students experience more opportunities for engagement. I wonder how that one shift might change my own thinking about innovation and what my students need. 

Boss talked about some practical ways to improve the chances for true innovation to occur. One of these very practical ideas is to have students design their ideal learning space. Think about what designs help them learn, what gets in the way of learning, and then trying out their ideas and revisiting them during the year. I love that because it says to kids that we will think through even the little things in this room, and that what you have to say matters.

It reminds me a lot of writing workshop. If we teachers give up just a tiny bit of control, our students will feel like they can actually engage in authentic tasks on a daily basis, It empowers them to think.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Retreating, but not pulling back

This weekend I had the opportunity to travel to New York, not the city, but a little retreat north of the city, to gather with other teachers for the finale eating of our Literacy in the Common Core initiative with the National Writing Project. I was excited to go because I have been on this sometimes-rocky journey with this group of teachers from all over the nation. I wanted a chance to not only finish the work, but to say good bye to these very special people as well.

I worked with a group of six teachers to jury modules that were made by our team. I felt overwhelmed by this task only because I felt I was in the presence of really wonderful and great teachers and I just didn't see how I would be able to make judgements about their work. As the weekend progressed, though, I discovered the process was not, and is not, about judgement, but about helping one another come to a deeper understanding about how to actually implement and pull off the common core in the best way possible.

 The questions that rose the top for me were: how do I create units that are coherent? How do I make certain I put literacy instruction first? And how do I continue to be this thoughtful in my practice even when the school year feels crazy? I want to hold on to the learning I have made and use it to propel myself and my students forward.