by LeeAnn Lewellen
As an instructional coach, I hear so many “buzzwords” when administrators and district personnel discuss teacher effectiveness after a brief classroom observation. Engagement, rigor, cultural responsiveness, high yield strategies, assessment… the list goes on. But as a teacher, how do I attack ALL of these things right now?! I feel the sense of urgency to improve in all areas right away, or I will witness the failure of the students and the demise of the education system. How can I attack ALL of these things right now? The answer – I can’t. It brings to mind the leader of the Roman Empire, Augustus, and his phrase, “Festina Lente…” – make haste, or go slow, to go fast.
What if, instead of fixing every little thing that needs attention in the classroom, I choose one area to improve? Just one. What one thing could I change about my teaching to improve student learning? Isn’t that what I would do to help grow my students? As a Reading Recovery teacher, when I hear a struggling reader read a text, I make a mental note of all the problems I hear and see. In one reading, I might notice visual errors, lapses in meaning, incorrect structures, and more. But if I try to address ALL of those things, I will have confused my reader! I think about what will move the child forward in his or her processing, and I pick one thing to address. As a teacher, I need to afford the same opportunity for learning to myself.
So that is what I will do. I will think of one way to improve my craft that could make a positive, lasting impact on my students. Does the day seem long and monotonous to me? Then I need to improve my engagement strategies! Could nearly every student finish every activity with 100% accuracy before I even began instruction? Then I need to improve the rigor of the activities. (or move on to a new topic!)
I will cease the practice of rushing through everything without mastering anything; I will go slow to go fast. I will develop a proper balance between urgency and diligence; I will go slow to go fast.
Join me, colleagues. Choose a path, work hard to improve, take a little at a time, and watch you AND your students flourish.
LeeAnn has 17 years of experience in the field of education. She is a Reading Recovery teacher and an instructional coach for her building. LeeAnn, along with Shawna Wilkins and Kelsey Wharton will present a session during the 2019 National Reading Recovery & K-6 Literacy Conference entitled “Deconstructing the Data: What Your Readers Need Now”.