(Ok, already this post sounds a little full of itself, but bear with me for these allusions.)
Hearing some of my teaching heroes like Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth recently and working under the expert guidance of Annie Taranto felt like a hero’s call to action. They showed me a quest to be undertaken on behalf of all children who yearn to read and write. And I set out on my journey back to my own school naively confident, brimming with good intentions and grand ideas of what we could accomplish. I shared brief teasers of the treasures I had glimpsed as though they were lavishly wrapped with personalized gift tags. One here to a fourth grade teacher, two there to second grade, and so on. Then I drew up a battle plan that sought to conquer the kingdom of perfect workshop teaching, to slay the dragon of implementation that wasn’t quite equal to the vision. Like all questing heroes I hit some roadblocks…it seemed my teachers were not interested in joining my quest. An all consuming new math program, looming conferences, unit transitions, impending code drills and on and on stood in the path. By Friday I was crestfallen. The wind had gone out of the sails of my expedition.
Luckily for me a mentor figure stopped into my room Friday afternoon with words of the wiser. This person whom I trust validated my desire to bring our practice forward. She made the very real strains and trials of our teachers clear. And she suggested I start again, smaller. We brainstormed and prioritized and I left feeling smaller but not quite defeated. Thank goodness for mentors (and weekends). Then this morning another mentor appeared unexpectedly in my Twitter feed. @MrsSokolowski posted about the power of teaching the way we deeply believe to be right and good.
I deeply believe strong workshops to be a gift to our children. And I believe we have a duty to provide the strongest, most empowering teaching possible to help children own their learning in ways that drive them to become everything that it is in them to become.
So here’s where I am now on the quest for amazing and powerful reading and writing workshop:
-Teachers are the heroes. (Thank you @LynMullalyHunt for that #fiat)
-Many heroes only reluctantly heed the call to action when they see the imperative need of their people (in this case young readers and writers) and believe deeply in the cause.
-The journey is perilous, full of dangers and impediments like evaluation, SLOs, the risk of finding out one isn’t flawless (or worse others thinking it), and in some cases back-breaking head-aching effort.
-Like all heroes, our teachers need us as allies and mentors,not to take over the quest, but to help traverse the challenges.
-Our hero teachers are the ones who must return home to the classroom transformed by the experience.
So I will continue to call them as questing teams when possible, and one by one when necessary. Every hero who returns triumphant may help another aspiring hero to accept the call to action. And if we’ve read Rick Riordan’s books, we know that heroes don’t just go on one quest in a lifetime. But the kinds of teachers who accept a quest will do so again and again…if they have loyal allies to share the journey and people depending on them.