Beliefs Drive Instruction

While in Austin last weekend at ILA, I attended “Planning a Year Around Workshop Teaching,” a session presented by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle.  I have had the opportunity to attend individual sessions by each at conferences in the past and I always walk away with new insights into literacy instruction.

They began by stating that “beliefs drive instruction.”  This theory comes directly from Peter Johnston’s Choice WordsBeliefs is something that I have really studied and thought more about this past school year, so right away that spoke to me. Kelly and Penny “believe that teachers must be agents of change.” The motto for ILA this year was “Changemakers.”  It is our time.  It is our turn.  We must be agents of change for our students.  Too many students are falling through the cracks or failing because we fail to see our responsibility as an agent of change.  We must change the trajectory for these students.

Pedro Noguera, a professor at UCLA, says that we continually ask the wrong question: “What can we do to raise student achievement?”  Instead, we should ask, “What can we do to challenge, stimulate, and engage our students?”  When we re-frame our thinking around student achievement, when we realize that change begins with us, when we change the narrative and give our students voice and remind them that they matter, then we will begin to see results.  Because, when we believe in our students, when we believe they can achieve at high levels, when we believe they have a purpose and a voice to share, they will rise up!

With these beliefs in mind and heeding the call of “agent of change”, I have spent the better part of today rethinking the reading block for the new school year.  With Kelly and Penny’s guidance through their book,  180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents I have begun to develop a way for elementary teachers to plan units of study around topics that matter to students.

I hope to stay on top of this thinking this year and share my learning here.

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