Newfoundland and Labrador English School District has partnered with author Regie Routman, and VoicEd Radio Founder/Podcaster/Host Stephen Hurley to host an open learning opportunity. The work will focus on the ideas found in Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence and Equity for All Learners.
An excellent introduction to the work can be found in a recent podcast that Regie recorded with Angela Watson.
In the podcast, Regie will have you hooked with her first sentence! It took me years as a teacher to learn that it was essential for me to bring ‘who I was as a person’ into the classroom. The key to whole school achievement is authenticity in living – being who we are, being kind to each other, and sharing what and how we learn while having high expectations for everyone in our care.
“How we present ourselves to students, the power that we share with them (or not), whether our emphasis is on putting students first, not passing standards or tests, and staying true to what we know is right, best, most principled practices for students, for teaching, for learning. And that includes more than just the content. It includes the way we treat people, including all members of a school building, from the custodian, to the secretary, that culture sets the tone for whether or not this is going to be a high-achieving school.
“… to get that sustained learning, where kids love learning, you need to have that culture of authenticity.”
Engagement: When children struggle to meet our set standards in school, the “go to” solution is to pull them out and/or provide them with skill isolation practice. We see a similar approach in high schools where we take the students who are not in an academic track and put them in front of disengaging materials so they can “get a credit”.
All of our students need the best literature, the best teachers and the best materials so that they are engaged in their own learning. We need to expect all children to think deeply and divergently. When we pull them away from that, it’s like giving them pieces of a puzzle without showing them the picture on the front of the box. How do they even know why they are there? How do we expect them to be motivated to learn more when there is nothing to be passionate about?
“High achievement requires a thriving culture“. Thriving cultures are cultures of kindness, cultures where parents feel safe and welcome. Kids’ stories are heard and valued. Kids come to us with strengths that are noticed and named. A positive mindset allows us to see all children as capable so we have high expectations for all learners.
Equity “is really about equalizing educational opportunity for every student”. We have to move beyond compliance, complacency and excuses when it comes to our young learners. How is power shared in the classroom? How are we encouraging and empowering student voice? Do we think children should move through canned programs and reading levels, or do we support teachers to excel in the teaching of reading to every child? How does our approach – what we are actually doing with kids – reveal our expectations of what they are able to achieve?
[This makes me reflect on the impact of geographic privilege, particularly in remote areas where it is challenging to recruit educators, and where it is expensive to provide learning opportunities. This upcoming learning partnership aims to make high quality conversations and networking available to all educators, regardless of geography]
How do we help kids see the power and joy in reading? How do we help children find their passions so that reading and learning become essential for them? Are we taking the time to intentionally teach children to learn how to learn? When do we take the time to bring in the books that we love, and share with children why we love them and why we chose to read them in the first place?
Excellence: How is the learning connected to the real world, and what is relevant to children? What structures do we have in place in schools to ensure a cycle of learning for all, the building of collective efficacy about the work, and the collaborative professionalism needed for a culture of constant improvement? Does the leadership team lead ongoing professional learning, analyzing student work, collaboratively inquiring into best practice for each child?
“Expert teaching cannot be downloaded“.
“Joy is a necessity“.
“All kids can learn“.
on VoicEd Radio.
Thanks to Angela Watson for this wonderful podcast.Annie Spratt