As I sit here in the airport waiting for my flight to arrive so I can return home to Chicago, all my brain wants to do is reflect on EVERYTHING I learned and was reminded of these past several days at the Heinemann Boothbay Literacy Retreat. If you have never gone (this was my first time) – this experience is one I hope teachers can experience at least once in their lifetime. Each day Kylene, Bob, Penny, Teri, Linda, Amelia, and Chris (I can’t believe I am actually on a first name basis with these reading geniuses.) challenged us to stop and think about what we are doing to empower our students to be lifelong learners in and out of school. In my next few posts, my goal is to highlight some of my favorite moments and quotes from the speakers as they worked with us throughout the week.
On the first night we checked in, ate some heavy appetizers, and mingled. How surreal it was for me to be standing next to Linda Rief talking about students while eating artichoke dip. Or walking up to Penny Kittle and her saying to me – “I know you.” Wow! Or Kylene giving me a hug and telling me how thankful she is for my work on the Notice and Note Book Club Facebook page and how excited she is that I am here. Right away these reading geniuses welcomed everyone and treated us like we were long lost friends.
Amelia Van Name Larsen was our distinguished speaker on Sunday evening. I had never heard of her prior to Boothbay, but I will never forget her messages, and now am back on Twitter following her. Amelia is a former Assistant Superintendent in Pasco, FL. Her mission is to bring equity, access, and agency to all students. Some of my favorite thoughts and questions she challenged us with were:
- It is important to capture students hearts and minds. Do you believe that all kids should have the opportunity to have an idea book?
- “Treat kids as if they can…”
- How do we set up our classes to create problem finders? innovators? social agents?
- We MUST honor and understand the lives of kids. First and foremost, we must meet the students basic needs.
- “Approach kids with a glass half full but know their half empty.“- We need to stop talking about them as if they are half empty.
- We need to design our schools to meet the needs of kids.
- “The easiest way for adults to teach… is the hardest way for students to learn.” – Yes, our lectures or reading aloud a text to students is easier, but ask yourself – who is doing the learning? You or the student?
- We need to move beyond just “understanding” to application. We need to get to the heart of what matters to students.
- “IDENTITY MATTERS” – students need to see themselves in the books that they read.
- We need to focus on ways to close the equity gap for our students – not leaving them further behind. Ask yourself, “Am I changing the world or entrenching inequality?”
While I realize that my list may make no sense to you out of context, Amelia Van Name Larsen made me stop and think about what I am doing day in and day out to increase the equity in student learning at my school. Every student deserves an education and a chance to be challenged and engaged in learning.
Food for Thought:
Would you want this for your own child?