Sunday, February 13, 2011

Teaching with Intention - Reflection 8

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  My eighth reflection comes in response to reading the final chapter.  Debbie concludes her book with this chapter title, The Thoughtful Use of of Time.  I think this quote is true all year long in education but hits home right now in February.  Many schools have had an inconsistent schedule due to weather and testing dates are looming in teacher's minds.  "...when getting done takes precedence over doing, when finishing becomes more important than figuring out, we've lost sight of why we became teachers in the first place; we've lost sight of what we know to be true.  In our rush to try to fit everything in, we've forgotten that children learn by doing.  And learning by doing takes time."  I think this quote really hits home with my internal struggles in my return to kindergarten.  Ten years ago we did the doing, the creating, and the figuring out at a different pace.  I believe strongly we should be doing, creating, and figuring out.  I think going backwards from third to kindergarten might be a hinder to the expectations and pace as I relearn how to be a primary teacher, again.  Our attendance schedule as changed in the last ten years and it presents challenges.  I think and hope I can regain a focus of doing more, creating, more and figuring out more as I get more understanding of the standards in each subject and can integrate them into units of study.  There's is so much to do in about 90 days of school but I know in my heart there are smarter ways of going about doing this important work.

One of the things I've worked on this year, especially for reading and writing workshop is the routines and structures.  I just loved it when Debbie writes, "Keep it simple.  Those three words say it all when it comes to establishing creative classroom environments that support the complexities of teaching and learning.  Putting into place a simple structure and a few well-though-out routines encourages, nurtures, and allows teachers and learners significant time to commit to thoughtful teaching and learning, engage fully, and thrive."  I would agree the success I feel this year is from having a simple structure, clear expectations, working together to reach our goals, and involving the students in the why we are doing things has been very helpful.  Debbie goes on to talk a bit about the structure of reading workshop, and the importance of conferring.  She warns teachers, "touching base isn't teaching.  Touching base is all about responding at the surface level to student behaviors." 

Conferring is something very different.
-it's sitting right next to students
-individualized instruction
-it's about teaching deeply
-supporting children

Debbie also shares with her readers how she keeps tracks of her conferences.  Each student has a small spiral notebook.  She shares with the reader how she reflects and groups, "I bring children together for small-group work out of efficiency.  Reading levels are a consideration, but I don't group children based on level alone."  I love this!  There is so much more to reading than a level.  There is so much more to reading than being in an organized book group each day of school.  I enjoyed Debbie's section on connecting conferences to the share piece of reading workshop. 

I've found this book motivating, inspiring, reassuring, and calming.  It's easy to list the outside factors that you can't control which make your teaching difficult.  However, it doesn't really matter in the big picture of our daily lives with children.  It's those hours and minutes that you are together learning, growing, discovering, and creating that are at the heart of what we do.  We need to embrace that and enjoy.


  1. Debbie Miller's work sounds very similar to Tony Stead's work. Not sure if you have heard of him. I started following his methods last year for all my reading groups and I love them. The conferencing (conferring) works like a dream and gives you a solid framework for ensuring that you really do reach each child each week.

  2. I've read Is That a Fact? when it came out and heard him present once. I just added his other two titles to my Kindle wishlist. Thanks for bringing them to my attention again. I loved Is That a Fact.