Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let's Play Ball!

I love my job. My responsibilities are exactly what I envisioned they would be when I was working toward my Master's degree in Reading and my Reading Specialist certification.  My primary role is to collaborate with teachers to advance practices in literacy instruction with the ultimate goal being to increase student achievement.  Ideally, this means providing professional support through co-planning, co-teaching, modeling, facilitating book studies, analyzing data, etc.

However, sometimes my job isn't so ideal. Budget cuts have led to decreased staffing and increased class sizes. An unsettled contract means morale is low and teachers aren't willing to put in any extra time beyond the contractual hours. At the same time, a change in administration has brought in a whirlwind of curriculum and program changes. 

That's right ... new programs and curriculum means it is time to step up to the plate Ms. Reading Specialist - you are at bat.  Now is the time to take a swing at the fast balls, spit balls, and curve balls that are being thrown at you and your TNT Teammates so you can show them how it's done, or at the very least, help coach them through it.  It has been challenging to help my colleagues acclimate to all of the changes that have been presented. Teachers are stressed and pushed to the limit and (as always) just out of time.  Somehow collaboration doesn't seem to be at the top of their priority list right now. So, how can I do my job (let alone do it well) when my colleagues aren't willing to "play a little ball"?

I started thinking about why they don't want to "play," and it always comes back to not having enough time.  So, I have gotten creative by finding ways to give back time to my TNT Teammates (or at least not consume what little they feel like they possess).  I have taken on more of the "planning" part of co-planning. I have taken stacks of writing and graphic organizers to be reviewed and commented upon. I have put conducted a share of writing conferences to help my TNT Teammates move more quickly through all of the students. This is co-teaching, collaborating, working together in the name of helping kids grow as readers, writers, and thinkers. 

All the while, professional development is taking place. It just happens to be in disguise.  I am modeling conferencing strategies and techniques when I confer with students. I am modeling reflective thinking when I debrief with my TNT teammates about what I might do differently or how I might plan for tomorrow based upon what took place today.  I am modeling thoughtful lesson planning when I take on a little more of the co-planning and explain how and why I made the decisions that I did when creating a mini-lesson.  The key to all of this disguised professional development is the reflective conversations that occur between my colleagues and me.  Learning is social, after all.

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