Monday, March 4, 2019

A Shift of Words

This post is for Day 4 of the 2019 Slice of Life Challenge. Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community of writers together to share our writing in the month of March.

Like many of you, I have been involved in countless conversations about education. Some of our conversations are about new instructional strategies or classroom environment. Some of them are about building relationships with our students and colleagues. Others focus on digital literacy or expanding our classroom libraries.

Among all those conversations that I have been part of, there was a time when a slight shift in words gave us a sharper focus as we talked about what happens in classrooms. I was fortunate to be part of a district that focused hard on improving teaching and learning. One day our Director of Education began to shift our thinking with a simple rearrangement of words. While it was a small and simple shift, it had a huge impact on our conversations and what we did in classrooms. This occurred several (maybe even many) years ago when the conversations about teaching focused on the how and what we as teachers did in our classrooms.

It was common in our district to frame our conversations around teaching and learning. One day, our director began shifting our conversations by flipping our focus to learning and teaching. It seemed simple enough. On the surface, one might not even notice the shift. But then, it began to change the way we thought about our classrooms, our schools, and our district. We began to pay attention to the learning before the teaching.

This simple shift put the focus on children and learning. It was no longer critical that we focus on what or how we taught each day although that was still an important part of our conversations. Observing students, listening to their responses to our classroom conversations, valuing them as individuals, paying attention to our informal assessments became our true vision. We saw with new eyes, we sought to understand what students were thinking and understanding, we taught in response to what we learned about our students. Looking back, I know it was a simple shift in words but now I can see what a huge impact it made. 

Learning and teaching - paying attention to what comes first - our students.