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Friday, March 29, 2013

Slice of Life #29: Part 3: Influencing Learning--Reflecting on Patterns, Themes, or Trends

Slice of Life #29:  Part 3--Influencing Learning:  Reflecting on Patterns, Themes, or Trends

Using my chart from yesterday's post (see below), Cathy asks for the reader to take this last step:

"Look over your list and reflect on any patterns, themes, or trends you perceive."  

(She uses the rest of the book to discuss learning processes for students and teachers and shares perspectives on learning is influenced.)

I learned…
  1. I will never be a "master teacher."  No one can master anything so complex.
Students have enlightened me--they will never let this be an easy job.  Their diverse needs challenge me in almost every way possible; the learnership of teachers never ends.  Stephanie Harvey said that we might become "specialists" who might respond to questions when we are well-informed... but to be a "master" implies that you have learned all there is to know... I can't imagine.
  1. Teaching will always be challenging.  I will never be able to open a file or Teacher's Edition of a text and feel like my plans are ready to go.
Experience with students over the years taught me to realize that teaching was not getting easier... despite reading and seeking Prof. Dev.  Students have taught me that by being ever-changing, ever-diverse.  I taught myself, too, because I am never satisfied!  This is just another reason why we MUST be responsible for our own learnership in so many ways.  In order to be the truest professional, we need to have a large repertoire of strategies that can only be honed as we continuously strive to learn from experience, others' knowledge and experiences, and research.
  1. I will love my students and colleagues almost as much as family; I will certainly spend more time with them.
Students and colleagues taught me this just by being there, being part of my life, guiding my thinking, and building relationships.  I've learned to try to look for the best in everyone and to try to understand motivations for actions which can guide me in understanding and treating each person with love.  Like I said, I TRY... it's a lifetime quest cause Lordy, I'm human.
  1. I didn't dream that there would be pundits who would seek to blame teachers for virtually every ill of the world and then pay testing companies to prove themselves "correct..." and that the public would be so easily fooled.
I read bills, write to legislators, read professional journals, watch the news (and detect the biases), and simply know better.  I am a political advocate for education.  Regie Routman discusses all of the roles that we need to take on as educators (in CONVERSATIONS), and being a political advocate is one of them.  Who better to talk about teaching than teachers?
  1. The digital age was right around the corner.
Students and the world taught me this.  Gradually, computers and iPads have become the way we share and seek information.  When I first started teaching, computers still had floppy disks and were “newfangled.”  Though funding slows us down a bit, it’s amazing how far we’ve come on the digital path and exciting to think about where it can lead.
  1. I am responsible for my own professional growth.
Colleagues, especially LeAnn Meyers, who started the first book study I ever attended on Regie Routman’s INVITATIONS.  Life was never the same.  J  Our local reading council helped me to see that there were amazing teachers with a lot of information and ideas to share right here in my own community.  It's important to be part of professional organizations.  Early on in my careers, I heard a respected colleague say, "You get two professional days per year--USE THEM," carried great influence, as well.
  1. I didn't know how to spiral curriculum or evidence learning/growth in authentic ways.
My grade-level colleagues and curriculum director taught me to determine what needed to be learned and what was most critical at each grade level—before any state or federal standards existed.
  1. I didn't know how to teach reading or writing workshops.
Ann Rice, now a principal in one of our schools, participated in a Young Authors program and shared it with our school.  It changed my life.  Later, she was one of my coaches; her caring helped sustain my fledgling efforts with the workshop model.  All Write!!! came into existence in our area, and it still supports me in amazing ways through talking with other coaches to opportunities to see and hear famous teacher-researchers.
  1. I needed to initiate change and cultivate with my peers.
I think seeing my former colleague, LeAnn, start a book study and Ann doing something innovative with courage led me to see that I, too, had power to initiate change.  Now I see this through professional organizations and in my work as a coach.  Serving on committees, such as the School Improvement Team, has contributed to thinking about creating and sustaining meaningful change, as well.
  1. I didn't have a deep understanding of how to analyze students' work in order understand learners' needs.
My principals and curriculum directors over the years have definitely helped me in learning how to do this.  Even so, I think back to my friend/colleague LeAnn who kept checklists of mastery in her grade book, so that she knew which students had mastered which standards and when.  Genius before her time.  This kind of sharing among colleagues has really influenced my thinking about data as a problem-solving tool (vs. "doing" data).


PEOPLE--Especially students, colleagues, and educational leaders locally and nationally have been my key influences.  

  • Students definitely influence my learning--they are my chief motivator.  They never let me off easy.  Even when I have the best-laid plans, someone will say or do something that causes me to think, pause, and alter the plan.   Experience in having a repertoire of how to respond to varied needs is what keeps me sane.
  • Colleagues who reflect with me influence my learning.  Their stories, coupled with my own, about teaching and learning help me to seek answers to our questions and wonderings.  This is an ongoing process, and I realize that every time the bell rings and a new day begins, there will be more questions that demand our thought and response.  Those who work with me now as a coach, talk as a friend, and who try new initiatives cause me to be thoughtful in my work each and every day.
  • Other professionals, such as principals, curriculum directors, and coaches.  These leaders were there to provide vision, skills, and resources needed to generate action in realizing our goals and dreams.
  • Educators who write.  As I've mentioned, Regie Routman's book, INVITATIONS, was my first glimpse into professional reading as an educator.  That book opened the floodgates for me, right around the time that my favorite publishers, Heinemann and Stenhouse, really started an evolution of thought by publishing so many of the greats.
  • Professional Organizations and Teams.  Our local reading council and my district's membership in the All Write!!! consortium have had major influences on my professional development.

It's interesting how these things are exactly what I mentioned when talking about being a professional and taking responsibility for our own learnership (see earlier post).  That's just a reflection/observation.

What are the patterns, trends, and themes that you perceive from looking over your own influences?


  1. What a provocative post! So much to think about and most importantly for act upon! Thanks for the inspiration this morning.

    1. Thanks, Rissa. I think it's important to remember where we've been. When considering the experiences--influences--that stand out the most, you find the people and times that made the biggest difference in your life (or career or both). Right now, I am thinking about this list, what it means, and how it translates into my work as a coach/teacher. It's affirming to see that the influences go along with what I've asked teachers to try as professionals... and, even better, the things they have asked for support in starting or sustaining. Like this, the list is the best when it comes from the learner.

  2. Another great reflection, Chris. I think the two most important influences have been the workshops at Teacher's College and blogging - in both cases I was able to connect to teachers who were relective in their practice and shared their knowledge. What a boon they have been!

  3. I wish I could go to Teacher's College and share in that experience. That needs to be on a goal list so that I can work toward realizing that dream. The good news is that several of the consortium's coaches DO go there and have worked with these fantastic, well-respected educators/researchers. They come back and share with me; but, true to form, I yearn to learn first-hand! :)

  4. I wrote today about one of my biggest influences--taking part in the National Writing Project. I would also add those teachers I've met through Twitter and blogging who push me to be more reflective in my teaching.

    1. Yes, I am starting to use Twitter a bit more. I could do more with it, I am sure. :)

  5. Chris,
    Your posts from Cathy Toll's thinking on Learnership have been inspiring. I am hoping to do just what you've done here and think more deeply and reflect while I have some time to myself during break next week. Thanks for sharing this with the writing community. I hope lots of readers are inspired by what you've shared.

    1. I am glad that you find this helpful! :) It's nice to feel like I'm not all alone.

  6. I like the idea of taking the same concepts and reflecting on them each day with a different focus -- neat!