Together We Achieve More
In preparation for a change of residence, I recently did a significant amount of purging the many file drawers and boxes where I have stored my favorite resources from 13 years of teaching sixth-grade math, science, and language arts.
I was surprised by the level of grieving that accompanied this process. My dialogue with myself went something like this,
“I remember this calculator-based robot project! This was so fun! It was a lot harder to execute than I had expected it to be, but boy, did it push the students to comprehend angles as they programmed their robots to navigate a particular corner of their maze. . . . But these handouts I created will make absolutely no sense to anyone else, and I know that I didn’t get it right this first time around, anyway.”
I grieve for the project's lost potential, and frankly, it makes me angry—at myself and at others. I was experimenting, alone in my classroom, without trusted colleagues to help me pinpoint and work through the frustrations that accompany innovation and new learning. I didn’t have a Carla Aranda recommending that I find a partner or an Anne DiPardo to remind me that I was not the only one grappling with tough questions about the practice of teaching and learning. There were times when I went to my colleagues for input, but it was definitely not a part of my regular practice, nor was it a part of the school’s culture.
This is why I get so excited about the network of professional learners that are beginning to gather together on the Literacy in Learning Exchange. Schools, departments, leadership teams, organizations, and other groups are signing up to share their questions, their wonderings, their lessons learned, and the processes they use along the way. It's one thing to meet regularly with your PLC, your grade-level team, your department, your study group, but imagine the level of learning that can occur when those outside your own learning team are able to offer additional insights, resource recommendations, and reflections along the way.
As a Community Facilitator for the Literacy in Learning Exchange, I am the matchmaker—connecting groups with similar interests and pointing them toward resources relevant to their work. Sometimes these resources are already available on the site, and at other times the expertise resides in one or more of NCLE’s stakeholder organizations. As I get to know the work of the teams, patterns across teams begin to surface—unexpected commonalities and surprising strategies. I do not intend to make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. This time, I plan to share and discuss my reflections and lessons learned.
This post kicks off an ongoing series of Perspectives about the work, the challenges, and the successes being experienced across the Exchange network. For starters, let me introduce you to a few of the shared interests of groups choosing to join this network. If you are curious about the work of any of these groups, I encourage you to “follow” them. This allows you to view what the group posts in relation to their learning.
Groups working on content-area or disciplinary literacies:
- WHS T-BAR Grant: focusing specifically on authentic writing in history
- Santana High School Instructional Leadership Team: developing academic vocabulary and “non-negotiables” across content areas
Ford’s Theatre Oratory Initiative: using performance and speech skills as connectors between literacy and history teaching and learning
Groups focusing on English language learners and issues of diversity
- North Star Culturally Mediated Writing Instruction: helping English language learners improve their academic writing.
- Universal Language: developing curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards and with ELL/ESL needs specifically in mind
- Rowland School District’s Community Mapping & Family Literacy CoP: uncovering the resources in the surrounding community and the expertise in families to better support students' engagement and literacy learning.
WTQP Early Literacy Consortium: meeting early literacy needs in diverse settings
Groups sharing an interest in informational and/or digital literacies:
- Orange Preparatory Academy: focusing on project-based learning and technology integration at the middle level
- Orange High School: investigating classroom discourse and argumentative writing
- AASL’s Collaborating for Inquiry Learning: bringing together teams of librarians and classroom teachers to collaboratively integrate informational and digital literacies in the content areas
This is far from an exhaustive list of all groups in the Exchange. I’ll introduce additional groups in the weeks to come. Keep in mind that the Exchange network is in the early stages of development. You will see that many teams have just established themselves as members of the network while others are beginning to share the artifacts of their learning.
If you found yourself saying, “We’re doing that” or “Wow, I want be a part of this,” then take a couple minutes to register your school, team, organization, department, partnership, or group. I’m encouraged by the idea that we can stop wrestling with innovation and new learning by ourselves. This movement gives me great hope to think that the fruits of quality teaching and learning will be shared across a connected community of educators, not buried in a single teacher’s file cabinet.
Next post, I will introduce you to groups focused on professional learning experiences, instructional leadership, and coaching. Logged in users can follow my posting activity (and that of others) by using the “Subscription” link below or clicking my name wherever it appears in blue to select “follow” on my profile page.