An Invitation to “Geek Out”

My colleagues used to lovingly poke fun at me for the vast amount of reading I did on literacy education.  They would shake their heads at me when I showed up at lunch with a professional book; highlighter and pen in hand, “just in case” I had a spare second to read.  They giggled at the thought of me reading and annotating in bed at night, when most would use that time to unwind by watching TV or reading much lighter fare.  And they would playfully roll their eyes when I talked about my summer beach reading, which consisted of books on reading and writing workshop.  But through it all, their raised eyebrows and skeptical looks never bothered me.

I unabashedly love “geeking out” on literacy.

Despite their chiding, my colleagues saw the value of my obsession as well.  If anyone ever needed a specific professional book, I probably had it on my shelf–already read through, highlighted, tabbed, and annotated–or, brand-new and still in my “To Read” pile.  When they wondered about a particular strategy or methodology, I could usually answer their question and pass along a resource to aid in their quest.  And our conversations about classroom practices grew much richer as I brought up ideas and theories that I had read about, and they learned along with me.

Due to the instructional gains I’ve seen from teachers who read widely about their field, it has become obvious to me that continuing our professional growth is an extremely important aspect of our lives as teachers.  It is especially one that we must perpetually work at in the ever-changing world of literacy education.

Penny Kittle recently tweeted an article by Rob Jenkins, from the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “The 4 Properties of Powerful Teachers”.  One particularly poignant statement reads,

You must continue your education on a regular basis — by reading extensively in your field, attending conferences and seminars, conducting and presenting your own research, and remaining a practitioner of your art or science. You must also continue to learn and grow as a teacher by exploring new advances in pedagogy and technology that can help you in the classroom.

And in the short term, to be a powerful teacher you must go into every single class meeting as prepared as you can be, given the time you have. That means more than just reviewing your notes or PowerPoint slides. It involves constantly reassessing what you do in the classroom, abandoning those strategies that haven’t proved effective, or are just outdated, and trying new ones. It means being so familiar with your subject matter that you can talk about it off the cuff.

Some of that will come with time, as your level of familiarity with your subject will naturally increase the more you teach it. Then again, just because you’ve been teaching a course for 15 or 20 years doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach it each term as if for the first time. It’s that level of preparation that allows great teachers to make it all look so easy.

(for the full article, click here)

Along with accepting new knowledge, we must also be open to the inevitable changes that will come about as new advances and understandings are made in the literacy field.  To be a truly great teacher, we must be open to the possibility that “our way” might not necessarily be the best way for our students.  That does not mean that we should wholeheartedly grasp onto every flash-in-the-pan theory that is presented, but that we should take the time to think about, evaluate, and possibly learn from each one.  A professional is, and always will be, a life-long learner within their field, even when they’ve been in that field for years.

So, whether you read professional books, follow educational blogs, or seek out every PD workshop you can in your area, I invite you to “geek out” with me, grow,  and share what you’ve learned.

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay

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