After 14 years, I made my way back to the classroom to teach a lesson. Even more amazing I taught my first reading lesson to a group of 4th graders. My last stint as a classroom teacher was teaching Louisiana History to 8th graders. I have to tell you I was completely out of my element. To make matters worse, I invited my entire 4th grade faculty to critique my presentation and then the icing on the cake was a visitor from the Central Office came by to take pictures for the district newsletter.
You may ask why I would put myself through such torture. The answer is I have been a part of Leadership Training that has been studying the “Student Engagement Literacy Model,” where the teacher is more of a facilitator and students become more active learners through “purposeful talk.” I have also been encouraging my teachers to provide more opportunities where the students are able have focused discussions in the area of literacy and what better way than leading by example. The research shows that the more time and support we provide students to participate in “powerful focused conversation,” they will become better readers, better test takers, and most importantly better prepared to enter the work world.
In Maria Nichols’ Comprehension Through Conversation, she discusses that the change in the global economy will require that employers are placing a higher value on listening and communication skills, on collaborative learning capabilities, and on critical thinking and system thinking skills. Teams are replacing the individuals and work is becoming more interdependent. Therefore, it is imperative that students today become experts in conversation.
That means the challenge for us as educators have to take the time and research best practices in conversation. We must also take the step of working more interdependently and less in isolation in our planning and delivery of instruction. This type of classroom is a long cry from my social studies classroom. It is hard for us as educators to let go of what we feel is comfortable and move into unfamiliar territory of letting go of the learning in our classes and let students teach other their own way with us serving as a guide.
This process will not happen overnight and it will be messy to move teachers out of their comfort zones, but in order for our students to be able to be productive in this global economy, we as principals must lead the way for our teachers and make this change happen.