This last Wednesday I got to relax at a time when, on any other Wednesday morning, I would have been running around nervous. In our building we have been working on literacy strategies and close reading. We have begun a journey to attempt to really get good engagement strategies into the hands of all teachers, not just ELA, and to increase the rigor and the literacy in every classroom in our school.
To do this, we assigned reading strategies to departments. Some departments had one, and some had two, dependent upon the size of the department. For more on the details of how this came about, you can check out my first installment of Reading and Leading here. Basically we wanted every teacher to be a teacher leader and we wanted to give staff reading strategies, and not just in a packet, but to see and experience application of them. The assignment was for each teacher to use the strategy in their own classroom and then engage the entire staff, as a department, in the use of that strategy as if we were the students.
Last month, when the first group went, I was scared. I was just so nervous that my directions had not been clear, or that they would just simply revolt. But that’s not what happened; they did a great job and set a great example. Between the two meetings, the one during which the first teacher-leader group presented, and this most recent one, we did some instructional rounds to see how our goals were being met. Not only did we see more evidence of literacy across the school, but we saw three of the six strategies from group one being used effectively in classrooms as well. This was so incredible to see! This really felt like a professional development win. It felt like we were not just jumping through hoops, but really helping each other to grow.
So last week, when teacher leader group two was slotted to run our staff meeting, I felt confident and justifiably so. They did a great job! This group held some of our most reluctant participants, but in the end, they were shining stars. When we first assigned the reading strategies to our departments, there were some for whom this was an exciting task, ahem… ELA and social studies. However, there were other departments for whom this was very scary and frustrating, like arts and CTE. Participating in this meeting, however, you never would have known it.
Our first teacher leader to present was a CTE teacher, who was not really sure how this would work for her and her classroom. We assigned her the reading strategy Alike but Different. After employing the strategy in her business class to help students see the differences between starting your own business and owning a franchise during her last observation, she was very excited to share it with our staff. She did a great job! We all saw the strategy employed in an effective way, we all learned that Applebees has to be in the parking lot of a Target, and she had very positive feedback from her evaluator who spoke about the strengths of the teacher and the strategy to the entire staff. Next up was the confident English department, who presented a strategy for using text evidence and forming an argument called They Say/I Say, and it was great. The arts department were up next with H-Map. It was a great presentation and practice because each of the five arts teachers, those in performing arts and fine and visual arts, used the strategy differently, yet it was powerful in each instance. Then we had another CTE teacher who showed us a great way to take notes that is more streamlined than an outlined called Power Notes. Science popped up next with a Close Reading strategy that was very applicable for all teachers using rigorous high interest and content rich non fiction texts. We closed out the meeting with the math department (who was more than willing to jump in, employ and present a literacy strategy) with Envisioning Words.
Just like last month, I was just really proud. These teachers were all teacher leaders. We know that each and every teacher in our school used a literacy strategy and have been engaged in eleven more. Through our walk throughs, we saw teachers using these strategies in their daily plans. I am really excited to do another round of walk throughs to see what kind of impact this will have on student learning and literacy. I watched teachers who were very reluctant and doubtful about making time for this in their classrooms, about getting up in front of the staff, and the impact it would have on student learning, turn into teachers who used a strategy, presented with confidence and can attest to the power of the lessons. If you are in a place to be a teacher leader and to spread that spirit of leadership, I encourage it. You could even think about doing something like this in your own staff meetings.