Sunday, April 10, 2011

Restoring the ELA Teacher's Soul @ NELMS

After spending the past few months speaking, studying, and writing about policy, legislation, and education as a bigger picture, teaching about regular ol' Reading Workshop at the New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS) Annual Conference in Providence this weekend, felt akin to coming home.  While I have enjoyed the new professional challenges this year, and eagerly take on the future, sometimes returning to my roots--which for me is how to teach reading and writing effectively to middle school students--is invigorating and comforting. 

On my second day in RI, I had the pleasure of finally sitting in on Rick Wormeli's workshops and he gave me so much to think about, my brain actually hurt by the end of the day.  During the first session he addressed standards based grading--something I've given little thought to over the past couple of years because it frightens me to make the transition even though on the surface it sounds logical.  It is a conversation I will bring back to my team as I struggle with the logistics and philosphy of it.  There is much more reading and studying to do on the topic in order to do it well and it represents a huge shift in grading philosophy.  And, as we all know, when bringing philosophical changes to your classroom, gradual and thoughtful change is best.  The second session he taught was about homework.  Our faculty has discussed homework practices, and while we had discussed the impact homework has on family life, Wormeli gives his adoring crowds more things to think about.  For example what about not grading homework? (This goes back to his standards based grading--if the final grade does in fact represent whether or not a student has successfully mastered a standard, then why do you grade the work that builds up to it? And if they don't do the homework, won't that, in fact, be represented in their summative assessments?)

So much to think about is a reminder that our profession can never remain stagnant--there is always something new to consider, something to challenge our beliefs,  and something new to read, (because of course, the bookstore lured me in so I now have a new stack of professional readings). But in the end, I feel restored.  Sometimes it's good to just be HCS's ELA teacher sitting in classrooms learning beside other teachers who grapple with and care about the same issues.

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