I am exhausted. This day exhausted me. But I feel like if I don’t get something down tonight, before some much needed sleep, I will regret it in the morning. I worry that these thoughts and feelings might be fleeting because things this powerful do not usually stay around for very long.
Today was a day of learning. Yes, learning from experts at Heinemann, but also learning from each other. Learning from a group of incredibly passionate, extremely bright, unbelievably talented educators. It has been such a delight to be engaged in discussion with people who care so deeply about education and who do not believe that they know it all already. Who believe that we can do better. Who believe that our kids deserve the best we can give them and it is our responsibility to keep learning and growing and reaching until we get there. And then once we are there, this group of people knows that there will be even higher heights to reach and further places to take our students. These are the kinds of conversations that we had today. This is why my head is so full of thoughts and ideas and inspiration.
Much of our work today centered around creating action research questions that will begin our journeys along a two-year path of study. Each one of us will be choosing one research question and doing research in our own classrooms, schools and districts with the goal being that we will create new knowledge. We will create something better for our students, for us, and for our colleagues.
It was a real struggle for me to do this kind of work without knowing exactly how it was all going to work out. It is hard for me to start to do something when I cannot visualize exactly what the process is going to look like. But I guess that is part of the learning. We don’t know what it is going to look like because so much of our work will be guided by our students. We can’t have it all figured out yet or else there would be no purpose in our investigation. We don’t know how things will turn out and that is terrifying and that is also what makes this work so important and so exciting. What we know is when we come to the end, we will know something that we didn’t know before. We will have knowledge that will allow us (and maybe even those who come along with us on the journey) to be better educators and better teachers of children. And that is exciting.
Throughout the day, I was able to connect with the 9 other Heinemann Fellows. The connections, the understandings, the shared experiences were so powerful. It was incredible to listen to the things that these other educators had to say. It was so powerful to be pushed by these people, to be made stronger by our connections, and to hear that we are not alone in our quest to give our students the education that they deserve.
What struck me the most today is that throughout all of the work that we did, I didn’t once hear any complaining. I didn’t once hear anyone mention what kids COULDN’T do. I didn’t once hear anyone list reasons why doing better wasn’t possible for them or that there were just too many things standing in their way. I didn’t once hear anyone blame the political climate for all the things that we aren’t happy with in our classrooms. These are the things that often bog us down. These are the things that often stop us from making progress. These are the things that often end up wasting incredible learning opportunities. Too often we get so wrapped up in lamenting all that is wrong with education today and we never stop to think about how we might begin to change some of that.
That just isn’t what happened today. And it was. so. refreshing. It was so incredible to feel the power of so much positive thinking. Today our biggest struggles were with narrowing down what it was we wanted to make better. Our biggest challenge was selecting from a myriad of passions to find the one that would make the best action research question. Our biggest hurdle today was knowing which words to use to express the learning that we wanted to do. Those are not bad problems to have. Those are a joy to wrestle with.
So at the end of the day, the research question that I have settled on is this: What are the most effective means for students to develop their own goals and independently work towards meeting those goals in a reading and writing workshop?
I am thrilled at having this focus for the coming school year. It goes right along with my quest to give more power to my students in the classroom and in our learning. It makes me excited to get back to school in the Fall so that I can begin to investigate this question. I know that any answers, or steps towards answers, that I might discover are going to make my students better readers, writers, thinkers and learners. And I am so excited to know that as I travel this journey, I will have the incredible support of the people who I have only just gotten to know, but whose hearts and minds I believe I already understand.
I don’t know how to express my gratitude for this experience. It is the most perfect opportunity that came along at the most perfect time. And I very much look forward to seeing where it will lead me.