Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sharing Stories with Twitter

I love meeting people. I love stories. Could there be any doubt that I love Twitter because it allows me to meet people and hear their stories? 

Being on Twitter has been like reading 200 plus stories all at the same time. Some of the stories are related by family ties - the brothers @courosa and @gcouros come to mind. While others are connected, such as @holtsman and @dreamleader, by a common workplace. I am connected to @cowpernicus by a mutual interest in professional learning. Surprisingly he is one of the few people I follow that I have also met in person! Most of the stories I follow are from educators. Others are cyclist, like @ghincapie, or entertainer like @ActuallyNPH, giving me insight into another lifestyle so very different from mine.

One story I look forward to visiting every day is from Natasha Badwar.
Natasha Badhwar
Natasha Badhwar
Daily Natasha updates her followers on parts of her life. Other than the heat, life in New Delhi is very different from life in Florida. Natasha writes about simple parts of life; her daughters growth and development, photographs from her garden, and travels all in 140 characters or less. Because of her tweets I am now more familiar with life half way around the globe.

Twitter, more than any other written text, forces me to use many of my higher order thinking skills. Building on my schema - what do I know about this author - and synthesizing new information from each tweet makes my reading a richer experience. Over the past year or so I feel like I'm getting to know some of these authors quite well. I have come to anticipate the new domestic workshops or golfing adventures as experienced by @shareski. Periodically @russgoerend and @MrsBMG post videos of their young son. We all get to watch him grow and change, delighting in his charming antics with the family cat and a very random Roomba! Recently we all waited with @thenerdyteacher for the joyous birth of his son. 

So these stories continue, day in and day out, and in and out of weeks, and over the years. I work hard to keep the stories straight and continue to learn more everyday about the world outside my home, school, and my little beach community. I can only hope my story makes someone smile and gives them a little insight into my thinking and growing as an educator. I'll keep reading and sharing, hoping you will, too. You will find me on Twitter - just look for @jaxbeachteach.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Finding my Religion with Sharon Taberski

Sometimes we get lost in education. Seems you can't go a day without hearing how public education is broken. We face massive budget cuts, further devaluing our efforts. Is it any wonder that occasionally even the strongest educator can feel defeated? Who is out there speaking for the teachers?

Sharon Taberski
Personally, I find Sharon Taberski is a voice for teachers. She writes with honesty about teaching reading in the primary classroom. Taberski calls herself a “teachers' teacher” with her work supporting her words. Ten years ago her book On Solid Ground made a difference in my understanding of Readers Workshop. In the fall of 2000, six months after On Solid Ground was published, I began my first coaching assignment. Her words helped put into perspective how various pieces of the workshop model came together into a cohesive whole.

Fast forward ten years later. I am still coaching and I am still referring to On Solid Ground with great regularity, quoting pages and passages like a preacher from a bible. It was with great anticipation that I marked Sharon’s session on my must attend agenda for IRA’s Conference in Orlando. It was time for me for go back to the well for inspiration.

In the exhibit hall I purchase Taberski's new book, Comprehension From the Ground Up. The subtitle, Simplified, Sensible Instruction for the K-3 Reading Workshop, reassured me that Sharon was continuing to look out for teachers. I waited eagerly for a new shot of inspiration. It has been a dark time for me professionally. My coaching position eliminated, educational funding cut, and teacher bashing abounds. I was in need of light in these gloomy days.

Finally, on the last day of the conference, it was time for her session: Re-Envisioning the Five Pillars of Reading. Rather than simply following the medical model of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, Sharon realigned and combined them with missing elements to create a new structure that supports comprehension. After all, as Sharon says in her blog, 
 Building on analogies, stories, and examples, Sharon spent the hour guiding us through her new thinking. I have been blessed over the years to hear Sharon speak on several occasions. Each time she shared more of her current thinking. At one point during the session she brought up cognitive dissonance, stating, “I don’t care if you think like me. I care that you think.”

So here I am, just a day later, thinking. I have yet to read more than the introduction of Comprehension From the Ground Up. I want to be able to focus and reflect, not rush through the learning. Truth is, I can’t wait to read every chapter and verse. After hearing Sharon speak I know her words will continue to lift up the profession of education. Its about time to practice some sensible instruction in reading, don’t you agree?