I am excited and simply terrified at the same time. After seventeen years as a K/1 teacher, I am making the leap to full-time Literacy Specialist at a new school in the fall. It is everything I could dream of in a job. After a brief stint as a part-time reading and writing coach in my previous school, I know how important it is to say and do the right things when working with other adults. One wrong move seems to embed itself in everything you do from that point forward.
This is why I dove into Becoming a Literacy Leader as quickly as I could get my hands on it. I am determined NOT to make the same mistakes. I have a fresh start, with a dream job and only one chance to make a great first impression.
One of the things I remember feeling most successful in my previous stint was pouring over a professional text with colleagues. The idea of a common topic, sharing ideas and struggles and the feeling that we were circling our wagons to help each other was a positive force in our teaching lives. We came together. That is why I was so excited to dive into Chapter Four where Jen Allen takes on study groups. I feel so lucky in this second edition to not only get her guidance but her MOST updated guidance after years of growing the idea – we ALL know the benefits of trial and error.
Jen shares how important study groups can be in bridging theory and practice and how important it is to give teachers the time to think through something deeply. As one teacher in the book was quoted as saying, “It saves students from the ‘learn as we go’ approach” (60).
When I look at the points that she makes in this chapter, I can’t help but reflect on my past experience and ways in which I will avoid what I know now as predictable problems. Once again, the benefits of trial and error.
Ask the teachers what topics THEY want to explore. Old me would have jumped in and picked the newest and greatest professional text I was excited about and sent an email saying, “Who’s in?” New me will build relationships with my teachers first by finding out who they are as people first, then as educators, finally finding out what topics most interest them. Only then will I help them find a professional text that fits.
Study groups should lift the quality of existing instruction. Old me would have just jumped in and offered up the book getting the most buzz at the time. New me is going to make sure that I am not asking teachers to take on “one more thing” but find a text to circle around that will enhance the goals we already have in place.
Be the party planner, not the honored guest. When a party is planned, you think of the guests. Old me would have made sure there were fun snacks, the book provided and maybe even a fun take away (which was also my instinct without realizing how important it was for community) which I will still do, but old me would have also become very uncomfortable in silence or lulls in conversation and took over with my own thoughts and ideas. New me will not make the study group all about me. I will give teachers “think time” and provide enough to keep the conversation but not take over. I will be okay with silence.
Create a predictable structure. Old me would have jumped in with my own set of questions and hoped for the best. New me is going to hold onto the great structure that Jen provided in her book like a life raft in class V river rapids for a bit until I can figure out my own community of learners and figure out what works best for us. It is called survival! P.S. I loved having the video clips to watch the structure in action. I WILL be subscribing to Lead Literacy this year!
I am determined that I will not look back on past mistakes as failures but as part of the journey that has led me to this new job opportunity. I am excited for the year to come and all of the ways I will learn and grow. Bring on study groups, I am ready!