“The teaching life is filled with the constant need to adapt.” – Donald Graves
The Teacher Learning Sessions began 12 years ago, really.
Price it like a book…
The idea I had then was about professional development DVDs: “Price it like a book. Sell it like a book.” My reasoning was that teachers are smart enough to decide that 2 hours of great video clips from top authors was worth $25.
Nope, hope, and nope again.
At that time and place in that particular company, the idea was not a good fit.
Since then, the idea has taken many forms: ebook, interactive on-line magazine, video library, on-line course library, etc.. Each approach involved hard, focused work, brief periods of optimism, and ultimately disappointment.
The idea was pitched to different publishers, discussed with many authors, and refined through conversations with teachers and administrators from across the US. Here’s a partial list of locations where the idea was tested and developed, set in verse:
New York. New Hampshire. New Mexico.
Chicago. Ohio. Idaho.
Jersey. Philly. Kansas City.
Denver. Seattle. Maine.
Graves was right, as usual.
Throughout all these iterations, the common theme has been the desire to provide high quality PD for individual teachers. To get here–launching The Teacher Learning Sessions as a PD delivery platform–I have had to adapt.
This is similar to what you face in the classroom as you develop and refine your teaching practice. You start off with clear vision and a solid plan–a learning objective for a lesson, a structure for a NF reading unit, a personal / professional goal to expand your repertoire of strategies for small group instruction.
But then reality hits. You recognize something in your students’ assessments that is different from what you predicted or planned for. Or in the long term, times change and the solutions you considered foundational are no longer as rock solid as they once were. So what do you do?
And you ask experts for help. You talk to people.
“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” – Maya Angelou
The power of podcasts as a learning tool for educators is just starting to emerge. Educators deserve that. The Teacher Learning Sessions will help.
We are launching with three podcasts and have plans to add more this fall.
You learn from experts.
Re:Teaching shares conversations with leading authors and thinkers in the world of education. They share observations, ideas, and suggestions on professional development that you can bring into your teaching practice right away. Re:Teaching is hosted by Kevin Carlson, founder of The Teacher Learning Sessions.
You collect stories.
Early in this project I felt frustration similar to what young readers must feel when they are over-matched by a text. I simply didn’t know enough. I made mistakes.
Maybe as a young teacher you underestimate the combination of hungry frogs and dazed crickets in a classroom terrarium project, and then you find yourself in a cricket horror movie and a roomful of screaming 10-year-olds.
Maybe that just happened to Penny Kittle, not everybody.
But you learn. And you grow over time. You collect stories.
You can hear some Penny has collected in Stories from the Teaching Life with Penny Kittle.
Penny Kittle is an English teacher, literacy coach, and director of new teacher mentoring at Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire. She is currently the National Council of Teachers of English Policy Analyst for the State of New Hampshire.
As an educator and an author, Penny has received many awards in her career. In 2009, she received the James N. Britton award from the National Council of Teachers of English for Write Beside Them. And, in 2015, she was recognized with the Exemplary Leader Award from the Conference on English Leadership.
Penny is the author of Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers, Write Beside Them: risk, voice, and clarity in high school writing, Inside Writing: how to teach the details of craft & My Quick Writes (co-authored with her mentor and friend, Donald H. Graves), The Greatest Catch: a life in teaching, and Public Teaching: one kid at a time. She recently co-edited (with Tom Newkirk) a collection of Don Graves’ work, Children Want to Write: Don Graves and the Revolution in Children’s Writing.
Penny’s essays are brilliantly written, insightful, inspiring stories about teaching and life in her years as an educator. They will move you and inspire you, and remind you of the beauty of living the teaching life.
You ask questions.
Over time you collect ideas. You learn how to get better. You ask questions. You learn what questions to ask.
- How can you increase your small group strategy repetoire?
- What are some specific strategies to increase engagement and reading stamina for struggling readers?
- Are there best ways to boost comprehension skills for ELL students who are strong decoders but struggle making sense of text?
You learn to keep asking, to keep coming back. You learn who to ask and to listen to other people’s Qs.
So who would be a good person to ask questions of?
Jen Serravallo. She’s the author of eleven books on the teaching of reading and writing, most recently The Reading Strategies Book, a collection of 300 reading strategies organized into 13 goals, each aligned to skills, genres and reading levels (Heinemann 2015).
Her AEP award-winning Independent Reading Assessment: Fiction (Scholastic, 2012) and REVERE award-winning Independent Reading Assessment: Nonfiction (Scholastic, 2013) are the first and only assessments of whole-book comprehension for chapter book readers (F&P levels J-W).
She taught in Title I schools in Brooklyn and on the Upper West Side, and, until 2012, she was a Senior Staff Developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.
The podcast will come out three times a week. Each episode will be brief, concise, and focused. 5-10 minutes addressing a specific question.
Whose questions? Yours.
You and other teachers will be able to ask questions through our website and Facebook group that Jen will answer on the podcast.
Teachers Ask Jen Serravallo will debut with a special launch in September.
Growth over time.
Growth over time isn’t just for kids.
As a professional, you have to grow in your teaching practice as well. You have to do for yourself what you want to do for your kids.
As The Teacher Learning Sessions matured and took clearer shape, I built a community of people to share it with. I needed podcasting experts, and marketing people, and experienced entrepreneurs to help refine the delivery method and business model. I created my own PLN.
In order to bring this project to you teachers, I surrounded myself with smart, creative people who had expertise and experience greater than my own. I connected with others, and I grew. I had to. And regardless of what happens with the project, I know that I’ve grown personally and professionally from the effort.
But I want you to grow from that effort as well.
It’s not just you.
As I’ve taped in classrooms across the country, teachers have told me that connection with other like-minded teachers is one of the most valuable pieces of their teaching practice. And it’s also one of the hardest to cultivate.
From Manhattan to rural North Carolina to southern Arizona to Virginia to Albequerque to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
You’re not alone.
Teachers everywhere are busy and work mostly in isolation from other adults. They are smart, motivated, and they love their students.
They are also more connected than ever before. They join Facebook groups and attend Twitter chats and participate in on-line forums. They read books and trade journals, they read and write blogs, they have book clubs. They read on-line and watch videos on-line and listen to podcasts.
They do it all for the love of their students, for the love of their profession, for pride in their craft. They do it so they can become smarter and more resourceful and more capable to help their students meet increasing challenges each school year. They do it for love.
At the heart of it all is connection.
I believe that connection is so important, it became our tagline: “Connecting teachers with ideas, experts, and each other.”
Soon we will add more podcasts and introduce on-line courses and other learning tools. This resource will continue to grow, and we want the community to grow as well.
To help build this community, to help yourself and your students, please join our email list today. The sign up is quick and free. You’ll get a weekly newsletter, and occasionally we’ll send updates on the podcasts and other news.
Thank you. And welcome to the Teacher Learning Sessions.