Knowing the power of others' reflections, I was really looking forward to this week's assignment, knowing that the first chapter we were reading dealt with feedback, praise, and other responses to students. Before reading the chapters for this week, I shared with a group of teacher friends that my "behavior management" plan has always been to notice students doing what they should, and try to encourage others to do the same, and after just reading the first three chapters of Johnston's book, I was pretty sure I might have to rethink this.
- "I like how Sally got her read aloud notebook and came to the floor so efficiently."
- "I like how Sam spent some time organizing his thoughts before writing."
So I began the reading, and then, KABOOM! I got to the top of page 42, and I knew I was right about rethinking these types of statements. To use Johnston's words, "The 'I like...' part is not as helpful. Rather than offering an agentive narrative, it offers a judgment and implies that the point of the child's efforts is to please you."
So I'm going to take Johnston's suggestion and focus more on, "Look at how you..." I'll be taking out the part where the students need to please me, and focusing more on the process of what the students are doing. My goal is to focus less on judging, and instead "position myself beside rather than above the student."
I loved the examples Johnston gives of writing conferences which really focus on cause/effect: saying to a student that you noticed they did a particular thing, and it resulted in a specific effect in that piece of writing. One of my favorite phrases in chapter 4 was "feedback is cast in a language of possibility rather than criticism." That phrase is one I will ponder and "carry in my pocket" all year long - the "language of possibility" - what an important goal for which to strive. I believe it will change the dynamics of my relationships with all students.
What Johnston had to say about the importance of dialogue, dialogic classrooms, and uncertainty in chapter 5 were all important and powerful messages for me. I've decided to just list some thoughts I had as I read about these.
- I was not shocked to read the research about 8th and 9th grade English classes and their lack of dialogic interactions. Let me clarify that that isn't a judgement about those particular teachers, but rather an observation that, as my own children went through the school system, dialogue was not always valued in some grades and across subjects, but certainty was. As a parent, I want my child to be so much more than just someone who can spew back information. I want my child to be a consumer of information, who then processes it in many different ways that help them make sense of the world around them.
- I thought a lot about where the control lies in my classroom. While I would like to think that my beliefs in children and in workshop make it a democratic place, I know that control is a hard piece for me to relinquish. However, as I read the suggestions on page 55 of how we can start to take ourselves out of a controlling position, I realized that I do several of those things all the time: wait time, taking ideas seriously, asking open questions. What I will be working on: not judging with my word use and collaborating with the class so the control of who talks next doesn't always lie with me.
- Ann Marie Corgill had already paved the way for my thinking about this. In a recent edition of Big Fresh from Choice Literacy (one she had written before), she thinks hard about classroom space so that all the students sit in a circle when they came together to think, giving the class more equality. In addition, she works very hard at the beginning of the year to establish expectations of how her students talk with one another. It doesn't involve raising hands - something I can't quite seem to master... yet.
- Loved the idea of changing the name of "read aloud" to "thinking together with books". While I think my classes have always known it is the latter, the semantics are pretty important.
- I plan on introducing uncertainty into my classroom on a constant basis. The quote "uncertainty is the foundation of inquiry and research" spoke to me -- we start our year wondering about topics together. Continuing to push where we are uncertain will help us all grow. I thought about my own growth as a learner when I read this part. I push forward in my learning because I reflect, possibly question a practice, and am uncertain. My best learning occurs when uncertainty is present; why would I not want that for my students?
- I haven't used Voices in the Park in recent years, but may need to bring it back this year. The concept of understanding multiple points of view might be a great way to begin our year together.
- "As teachers, we increase our skill at social imagination the more we listen to children."
I can't wait to read what everyone else thought about this week's reading. This week, Jill Fisch at My Primary Passion, will be the hostess for our #cyberpd thinking. Have a great week!