Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Side by Side Short Takes on Best Practice for Teachers and Literacy Leaders

Side by Side Short Takes on Best Practice for Teachers and Literacy Leaders by Heather Rader is a new gem in professional resources.  I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Heather last fall at the NCTM conference in Chicago.  You may know her name as the Senior Editor of Choice Literacy an online resource for a literacy topics to help us grow and stretch our thinking.  I've been reading her Big Fresh newsletter openings for quite some time and have loved her open and honest reflections on life and her connections to teaching and literacy thinking.

Side by Side Short Takes on Best Practice for Teachers and Litearcy Leaders is a collection of short essays.     You will find challenges in education presented from the view of a classroom teacher followed by the view of a literacy coach.  You will find tips for relationship building and caring at the forefront of each perspective to help guide and embrace change in search of collaboration.  Encouragement was a constant message I felt as a teacher reading this book.  I never felt overwhelmed or defeated because I hadn't thought about something Heather shares.

The book is organized into four sections; Starting Out Effective, Best Practice All Day Long, Explicity Teaching Writing, and Assessing What Matters.  Many of the essays offer the reader great thoughts about introductory lessons for literacy concepts.  Have you ever thought about starting math writing by discussing  the purpose of writing in math and making a peanut butter and honey sandwich?  Have you thought about using a sponge to help students think about summarizing?  As much as I enjoyed gaining ideas for classroom use I enjoyed reflecting on the guidance and thinking from having a literacy coach right there with me.  Reading Heather's writing feels like a conversation in person with her.  It's insightful, guiding, and honest.

One message I loved throughout this book is, "Every teacher deserves a coach."  She repeats this thought a few times during the book.  I have been in a conversation asking for someone to bounce ideas off with and in a time of budget cuts and reduced staff was told, " You don't need me."  No, I don't need an intervention coach nor am I at risk but I do need help stretching my thinking, bouncing ideas off and as Heather shares over and over again in this book someone to observe and document what is actually happening in a classroom.  I love the idea of having a literacy coach in my room taking dictation and scribing then giving me time to process what happened.  I can see lots of growth coming from that.

Heather's writing is filled with nuggets of insight.  I thought I would share a few in hopes you will want to add this book to your To Be Read pile.

- ..."strict, but I realized it was their way of saying that behavior expectations were clear, predictable, and consistent in our room."

-..."the day to day work of maintaining a system requires heads-down dedication and fortitude.  In other words, consistency is the key to any working system."

-..."when what we really need are small steps to go deep."

-..."coaching is about information, not evaluation,..."

-"Noodling is my husband's word to describe what is happening when he is thinking deeply and quietly about something."

-"Misconceptions are to understanding what crawling is to walking."

-"We need to switch our focus from what the teacher is saying and doing to what the students are saying and doing."

-..."when a teacher says, "I feel like I'm working too hard," it probably means the kids haven't learned yet how to work hard themselves."

-..."but in the beginning it was a patient investment of intentional teaching."

I was surprised to find essays that covered math and content coaching making connections to literacy.  We have to work smarter and cross content to be more effective.  This last nugget is really what guides Heather's book, "But my title is "instructional specialist," not "curriculum specialist," so I focus on effective instruction for student learning no matter what the curriculum is."

1 comment:

  1. Mandy,

    You are the second or third person this week to recommend this book. I love your ideas about everyone needing an coach - as one to bounce ideas and talk instructional strategies. So true!

    I'll be adding to my to-be-read book! Thanks!