Friday, December 4, 2015

Take the Time

This fall I'm reading and reflecting on the book Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller.

Chapter 8: The Thoughtful Use of Time

Every time I read through a chapter of this book, I just want to shout YES or print it multiple times in the margin. This chapter made me think about my frustrations in my second grade classroom. Debbie Miller starts the chapter mentioning that teachers nowadays have pressure from others to meet all kinds of standards and directives. Teachers feel like they must push and push to get everything in. That's exactly how I felt my last experience in the classroom.

But Debbie writes: "When getting it done takes precedence over doing, when finishing becomes more important than figuring it out, we've lost sight of why we became teachers in the first place." We know that children learn by doing...and learning by doing takes time. We must slow down, allowing kids to learn and understand. We cannot just teach fast and expect to be truly successful in teaching and learning.

Debbie Miller stresses using a workshop model and using conferencing with children. She stresses focusing on spending quality one-on-one time with students, just one or two or three each day. Teachers must have authentic conversations with kids, helping them focus and apply lessons and strategies. Teachers must make notes about these conferences, keeping track of what was taught and what was said (by teacher and student). Teachers must also lead students to teach one another about what they are learning...using debrief time after independent reading and conferencing.

The goal of these conversations, this conferencing - to evaluate where students have been, where they are now, and where the class needs to go next. The teacher can use what he learns in these conferences to inform instruction: whole group, small group, and individual. Conferencing feeds into planning which leads to next round of conferencing.

I've mentioned before - I think this book is showing exactly where the gaps were in my classroom experiences, both teaching and planning. I really didn't see the overall big picture when planning. A huge oversight. But I think I depended more on the pacing guides and standards plans of the district and less on information gleaned from my students. And when I did slow down or circle back based upon feedback from students, I felt a sense of failure because I wasn't "moving on."

Everything in this book makes so much sense to me. And hits me right in the "teaching muscle." I really wish I read it two or three years ago. It has added so much to my overall knowledge and teaching philosophy. It has fleshed out so many thoughts I had mixing in my head. A great read.

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