A group of teachers have been meeting on Tuesday mornings before school starts working together through a text on literacy instruction. The text is Who’s Doing The Work by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris. The conversations so early in the morning are truly incredible. Teachers from multiple grade levels share ideas, talk through challenges and attempt new strategies. As we learn together, the facilitators have provided conversation starters and videos to engage us further. Each week, we commit to work to try. I have enjoyed taking part in this learning to engage further students in literacy.
As you can gather from the title, the text engages us in thinking about placing the work of learning truly into the hands of children. We are challenged to give the time and focus to our children to engage in thinking. The idea of placing the work into the hands of our children seems so simple and yet for teachers who are so driven to move our children, it can feel challenging.
This past week we discussed giving time for intellectual dissonance to our students. We want to engage them into thinking deeply without quickly jumping in to rescue to take over. As the principal, I recognize that I am not spending my whole days in one classroom working with a group of children. But I do find myself in classrooms as often as possible. I often stop to talk with students, learn about what they are learning, and encourage. I realize that sometimes I don’t spend length of time with one student when watching the work in the class. So after our conversation, I decided to give the time to engage in that intellectual dissonance that we were discussing. I wanted to feel that struggle and see what happens. I visited a second grade class while they were making comparisons of fiction and non-fiction text. I noticed a student who was doing his best to not draw attention to the fact that he wasn’t getting much thinking down on his paper. As I walked over to talk, he waited to see how I was going to help and give him the answers he was seeking. I swallowed that need to rescue and instead began to ask the questions and waited for him to think through the answers. I reminded him of his courage to proceed. And after a few minutes, he began to do the work. He stepped over his nervousness of doing the wrong thing and really started to capture his thinking.
I share all of this because I know as parents, we also feel such a sense of rush to do for our children. We want to help get them to the answers. But I wonder if we allowed our children to think things through and really make those efforts, how much more they will truly learn. It takes time. It takes courage. But I believe the growth that our children will make in building their own minds will be worth the work.