At the end of June at EBHS, a group of teachers finished our first ever book study. In the 20 year history of our school, this is the first time that we’ve endeavoured to do something like this. In the end, 7 of our 27 or so teachng staff read and discussed Kylene Beers book When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do. (Read about our initial idea.) It took us 6 months but we finished during the last week of school in June. Here are some take aways from the book and the experience:
- Learning can take a long time, but that’s OK. It took us 6 months to read and discuss a 14 chapter book. That’s a long time, and in some ways I’m disappointed that it took so long. On the other hand, we did finish, with all group members making it to the end. That in itself is an accomplishment. We’ve been convincing ourselves for the last 20 years that we are too busy to make something like that happen, but we did it.
- Sharing your learning is contagious. Most of the teachers involved have implemented strategies from the book in their individual classrooms. Some of our best discussions were those times when we reported on a strategy that we tried, or tried again.
- Learning fosters collaboration. The excitement of one teacher trying something new, or altering their practice even just slightly, gives way to others thinking that they might be able to try something similar. Collaboration is difficult to get rolling, but powerful once it is unleashed. This type of collaboration doesn’t come from being “told to” collaborate, but from an organic desire to do so to become a better teacher.
- Learning hopefully leads to trying something new. We decided on one big goal to try to accomplish as a result of our work together. Our dream is a reference sheet for every student in the school–double sided and in a plastic protector. This sheet will have a list of commonly misspelled words, commonly confused word pairs (vs. pears vs. pares), perhaps some common root words, suffixes and prefixes, and a list of common Social studies words that are used frequently in reading and writing. We also envision a space for students to record their own common spelling demons. The dream would then be that in every Enlgish Language Arts class in the school, any writing task, big or small, would begin with the phrase, “Take out your word reference sheet and leave it on your desk to access as you write.” I myself am not a stellar speller so I will have a copy of this list attached by magnet to my white board so that students can see me using it too. Hopefully we will be able to convince our colleagues who didn’t have time to read with us that this will be a valuable tool.
- Learning is contagious. Throughout the past months, teachers who had considered joining us but didn’t, have asked what our next book is going to be. This is exciting. Even though it certainly was challenging to find the right time for 7 teachers to learn together, there apparently is an interest in learning together. I hope there will be more updates on other books to follow. Next topic seems to be leaning toward “the brain” and recent research in that field that has so many implications for education.
- Learning is continually sharing. Hopefully book study participants will leave some of their take aways in the comments below…..