When I go to any Institutes at TCRWP, one of the hardest things to do is to synthesize my learning. Every conversation I have there is stimulating. It’s great to be surrounded by so many hard-core teacher geeks. So, in an attempt to collect my thoughts, I will write a few postings from various parts of the week.
The first session was delivered by Lucy Calkins. Below I summarize her comments. But do know that I am rephrasing what she said. It’s going to read as less seamless than when it was delivered. Where I have directly quoted here, I added quotation marks. She has some nice gems, of course. This is not meant to be a term paper, so it won’t have footnotes with research to support her points. Also, for you international teachers reading, know that the whole talk was draped in the context of what is happening in education in the US right now- and it’s not a pretty scene.
Lucy is often asked what books she is reading to shape her thinking. She started talking about two books, Visible Learning by John Hattie and Research Based Teaching (I am not sure of the exact title. If I find out I will correct this later). The work of these books is shaping the way the project is taking their work. One reason their ideas are being influenced by these books is because they are reading them with an open stance. There is a way that we can read things and be open to letting their ideas shape us, and there is a way that we can read things with our minds already closed. So with this open stance, they are trying to incorporate some big ideas into their work.
When people study what works in classrooms, they study what has a large effect size. One of the books they read included a review of research about what variables influence student achievement. Surprisingly, class size does have an effect, but not as large an effect as some of the other variables they studied. What does have a large effect size is the kind and amount of feedback students get from teachers. What kind and amount are we giving? Something to consider.
We need to give kids the feeling that there is a progression in their work. Do they understand that one day is supposed to be better than the last? Each day building on what has come before? Their ability to choose a topic, reread and revise, have a partner conversation, jot on post its, use their reading log, and give themselves writing homework- it all needs to be getting better and better across a year, and across years.
Kids need big, ambitions goals. And so do teachers and schools. The whole idea is tha tyou have a goal that you are working towards, and a vision to attach the goals to.
Certain trends in education are not going away: Differentiation, accountability, data based teaching, and the common core. These things are here to stay, for now. “You can’t really win by fiercely saying no.”
“We need to face the brutal facts with undying optimism.” (this quote is from Jim Collins, author of the book From Good to Great).
On data: Using data is like looking in a mirror. If we find that kids can’t do something, let that teach us that it’s what we need to give them more opportunities to do.
People are going to be looking at data. If we don’t give them the data we want them looking at, they will look at something else. So we need to be in control of what they look at. Let’s give people data they can trust and what reflects our priorities.
On differentiation: The very best of education is individual. When you love someone different than you, you become bigger.
On the Common Core: We need to become spokespersons for the Common Core. If we don’t interpret this document, others will do it for us, and it could be done in a horrible way.
We spend a lot of time teaching children story structure, and that in a story the character struggles and struggles towards something they really want. Story structure is life. It’s not just a thing we teach. We encounter trouble. That’s when the rising action happens. When we encounter trouble, we draw on resources we didn’t know we had. “When you encounter bumps, that’s when the insides spill out.” Bring the trouble out and let the community rally around it.
The winds blowing across education are troubling right now. But we can use those winds to lift our sails and take our practice to new levels.