Saturday, February 6, 2016

Regie Routman: My Hero

You know you work for an observant, caring superintendent when she posts a video to your Facebook page because she knows it's from your hero, Regie Routman. (How many superintendents can pull off something like that for one of their many teachers?) Anyway, I do love all things Regie. She's long been my favorite, and her thumbprint is on my pedagogy.

In this 24-minute interview, which I've listened to several times, she makes some challenging points, as she often does. I've made a list of my favorites (in black font) with a bit of personal commentary (because I have a hard time refraining). I'm certain you'll find your own nuggets from this video, so please watch here.

  • Principals have to know literacy and teachers have to be leaders.

Ahh, yes! I can hardly contain myself. This is what our students deserve - a school of teacher leaders and a principal who knows and understands literacy.

  • I look at literacy at, how do we teach children to read and write for real world audiences and purposes? How do we make this authentic so it connects with their life and their culture, and so that they are engaged in the work that we're doing?

This is the crux of the matter right here, and I'll admit there are still a few students in my care who I haven't reached yet. I haven't found a way to make literacy as authentic for them as it must be. I can say for sure that the answer will not be found in a teacher's manual though. Amen.

  • People don't get back to the basics of reading and writing until all else has failed. Why do we keep looking for a perfect program or curriculum?

Yes, why? The basics are tried and true. Regie's always been a proponent of this.

  • Schools have PLCs (professional literacy communities) going on but they were about data: here's where we need to improve data - but no one was showing teachers how. You can't raise expectations just by looking at data. You can't raise achievement just by looking at data.

The data, and the study of such data, is useless unless teacher excellence and professionalism is positively affected, and that won't happen by accident. 

  • If you're not knowledgeable you're going to be implementing with fidelity and we need to be implementing with flexibility. You can only do that from a strong foundational base of knowledge.

I've long held a grudge against the word "fidelity." I love how Regie replaces it with "flexibility." That's perfection right there, and she's completely right. If teachers have a strong foundational base of knowledge, then the word "fidelity" doesn't need to be tossed around.

  • When teachers see their principal coming into the classroom and celebrating them rather than "You need to improve on this" everything changes in that culture. Celebration is at the heart of my best teaching. It changes the culture of the school.

I've read Regie's last two sentences in various other contexts, so I know how strongly she believes this. I've seen their impact in my own classroom. When I have a classroom moment that's particularly powerful, it's usually one of celebration, and I think to myself, "Man, that was good!" It does indeed change the culture. Our classrooms and schools need more of those moments. 

  • If you have more than one major initiative going on at the same time, you're not going to make any progress. We have to slow down to hurry up and to really value that deep professional learning. And you're not just moving from one subject to another. If you're focusing on writing then you're focusing on writing for at least a year. 

Doesn't it feel like we're spinning our wheels at times? There's nothing deep about that motion. True professional development, which takes time and energy and focus, can't be spread thin like a barrage of bullets in a drive-by shooting. 

  • Teachers don't need a script. They need deep professional learning so they can take the curriculum and the standard and say "Here's what I know, not just in my gut and in my heart, but here's what I know through research and experience and collaboration."

We need to teach with eyes wide open, especially when there are so many mandates, curriculums, programs, etc, coming at us. Without the right expertise, we can't use those resources appropriately. The script is not the answer.

  • It's this commitment to professional learning of the highest order that's missing.

I'm in charge of my own professional learning. I believe the district and the school play a part, or should play a part in increasing my professionalism, but in the end, the buck stops with me. I must commit to an ever increasing knowledge base for the sake of every student who enters my fold.

Thank you Regie Routman for sharing your expertise and wisdom. We are better teachers because of you.

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  1. I am in love with all of this! You have a wise superintendent to guide your school. I may need to pass this on at the right time to our new principal.

    1. Lori, she is very wise, along with Regie. I'm blessed by them both.

  2. I love Regie, too. I'm off to listen to her video!

  3. Very wise words. I just sat through my 3rd PLC in a row where we talk about data. Using just running records are your students above grade level, on or below (below grade level for Kinder is reading 40 words per minute or less, by the way). *sigh* It can be very disheartening. I would much rather share strategies and lessons that are working. Very interesting points-thank you, as always for sharing! :)

    Not Just Child's Play

    1. Miss Trayers, I'm sighing with you. (Almost 100% of my class would have been below grade level when I got them at the beginning of the year if they had to read 40 words per minute.)

  4. This post just resonates with me! So much of this is so very true. Thank you for not only Regie's words, but yours as well, both are so powerful!

    1. Maria, thank you. Regie gets me fired up. She's so very wise.

  5. Wow!! This post is so meaningful and powerful. I need Regies imprint on my professional life. Books recommendations. Please!?! Thank you as always.

    1. Em, oh yes you need to meet up with Regie. You'd probably love Teaching Essentials!