This week's chapter is all about walking the walk - how do your practices, the things you do everyday in class with your kiddos, measure up to your beliefs? Debbie Miller starts by challenging teachers to develop their own set of beliefs - and then look critically at what goes on in the classroom.
So... what are my beliefs? After a lot of thought, I came up with two ideas that are central to my teaching. There are more, but these seemed most important to me.
1. Building a community of learners is the single-most important path to successful learning.
This belief is the cornerstone of my teaching. Creating an environment that is respectful, open to discussion and differing viewpoints, where students know each other and care about what goes on, not only in the classroom, but in each others' lives.... this is the kind of learning community I strive to build every year. We have morning meetings and closing circles (rooted in Responsive Classroom), spend time throughout the year modeling and practicing how to be a good listener, questioner, team player and partner. I pride myself on really getting to know every student in my room on a personal level - and on learning about each other as a class. I could go on and on about ways we build community (maybe another blog post? :). But this is definitely a belief I have held for a long time.
2. Start from where you are and grow to where you want to be.
I know this is really broad - and it encompasses other beliefs that probably deserve to be on their own. As I'm typing this, I am realizing I really need to tease out the different parts of this belief so they each stand alone. Debbie Miller talks about always having a plan, and knowing where you are going. Where do you want to be by the end of the year? In January? In the spring? I think that is important. Keep that plan in mind, but take students from where they are NOW - not where you WANT them to be, or even where they SHOULD be. Every child is on his our her own journey. And the starting point is going to be different for everyone. Our everyday decisions should be made based on data from our students, taken from formative and summative assessments, anecdotal notes and observations - not just on what the curriculum map, anthology or lesson plan says. Yes, students should be learning certain things at certain points of the year. But you can't teach plural and possessive nouns if your students aren't completely solid on what a noun is. And that is ok. And it's ok if the teacher across the hall is teaching plural nouns and our kiddos aren't ready. They will be. Just give them time.
"Where is the evidence of these beliefs in the classroom?"
This was the biggest takeaway for me from this chapter. We all have mandates, programs, pieces of curriculum, units, etc. that we may not agree with - but that we have to do. How can we teach what we are asked to teach, and still be true to our beliefs? Debbie encourages everyone to take an in-depth look at every little thing that goes on in the classroom. Does it align with your beliefs? If so, then keep doing it! If not, then you have to make a choice. Change your beliefs, or change your practices.
This chapter has really made me take a look at what my beliefs are and how they play out in the classroom. After 20+ years of teaching, I can say that my practices may have changed, but my beliefs have stood strong. And I need to keep remembering to be true to myself - and my students, in everything I do.
That's all for chapter 2! Make sure you stop over and visit the three lovely ladies hosting chapter 2 and check out other teacher's thoughts. Lots of link ups!