When I began this month-long writing commitment, I started with a post about discovering how little I really do know.
I was reminded of my work in helping teachers use a certain approach to managing their reading block. Our school did a book study to learn about how the authors had developed and refined a system to teach students how to work independently.
Their idea was for the children to do their important work of reading and writing on their own, so that the teacher could do his/her important work of meeting with small groups of students for more focused, on-level instruction. Brilliant! And so very needed in reading classes today.
And this is no small task. Yet these authors had tackled the problem, devised a solution, used their ideas in classrooms, improved their techniques as needed, and then written a detailed explanation of both the theory and the practice for teachers to follow. They presented at workshops and made videos to help others with understanding how to pull this off.
During our study, in my “wisdom,” I remarked frequently to teachers that, since not every classroom is the same, it would be good for them to pick only the parts of this program that might work for their group of students. Or, to help them more easily implement this routine, just to choose one or two pieces to start with and see where that led.
Yes, picking and choosing was the way to go, I said. No one could do it all, and no class of students would need each part of this plan. Even though I saw a need for these habits in students, and I thought this method was a good one, I was advocating a partial approach. Some is better than none, I thought. It will make your life easier. Just try what you think you can do.
All determined by me after a brief overview of the reading, and zero time using the plan with students.
One colleague told me, in a very nice way, that she would be using the strategy in its entirety.
First of all, she said, these authors had invested a lot of time and energy to research and put into practice the whole of their ideas, the “total package,” and if they seemed to think it was all necessary, then so did she.
Secondly, she said, if she didn’t do it all, she wouldn’t really know if the ideas were sound and would stand the test of time. How could she determine which parts would be worth repeating with students year after year if she hadn’t seen the big picture?
I had no argument, no recourse, no reply, other than, “You are so, SO right.”
You see, I had taught a long time and thought I knew so much. But I was not putting into practice what I had learned over those years. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. And right means thoroughly, completely, and for the right reasons.
Thankfully my friend showed me the way.