Monday, December 03, 2007

What was I hired for?

I am sitting at the NSDC conference in Dallas immersed in learning about learning with thousands of educators from across the world. It is an amazing conference to attend and the highlight of my professional learning each year.

Today, my focus is on Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. While I am familiar with most of the technology tools – it is interesting to view them through the organization of the nine strategies. It makes me think about how I can be more explicit in the organization that I use in my online work.

I was stopped short in my learning and compelled to write this blog entry at a comment made by the presenter. In discussing providing feedback to students, in particular around writing, he commented that as teachers we are not hired to be editors, we are hired to teach.

We are not hired to be editors, we are hired to teach.

I have been thinking a great deal about the activities I have been doing with teachers around examining student work. It is a natural progression after we have developed writing rubrics and determined the methods we will use to teach students to write. And I believe strongly that it is an integral piece of developing writing. However, as we look at the student work – I find that some teachers still make generalizations about the writing (“the good, the bad, the ugly”) instead of using the more discrete elements of the rubric to provide feedback (“that piece had great voice but was weak in organization”). And when the writing is “weak,” we give too much feedback. The student work swims in an ocean of red comments (or purple or orange) rather than providing explicit feedback and how the student can improve.

We are not hired to be editors, we are hired to teach.

We tend to be more comfortable marking up the papers (being the editor) rather than providing the feedback and mini-lessons that would help develop better writers (being the teacher.) Why is that?

Time? What better investment than to spend some time up front working with students on analyzing anonymous pieces, reflecting and getting feedback on their own writing, and revising with that feedback?

Too many kids? One of the best ways that students learn is from one another. Once we teach them how to give feedback using the rubric, we can focus on those who need some direct instruction rather than trying to get to all students in the course of one class.

Too hard? It is hard to plan for writing instruction. Each piece presents a different range of student abilities that we have to address and they generally are not things that we can anticipate. I still remember assuming that my students could write introduction and then being unpleasantly surprised to see my pet peeve intro (“In this essay I will tell you about…”) crop up all over the place –including on the papers of those writers I thought were “strong.” And I had little in my bag of tricks to help fix that problem.

So I had to start becoming a writer again – I had to write everything and think about how I thought about a lead or made transitions. I had to put my writing up for my kids to critique and give me feedback on. I had to write and read and write and read until I could also say that I was a writer to my students. It was hard…it was worth it…and I was a teacher, not an editor.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I'm going to print this out and carry it with me. Everytime teachers want to focus on mechanics and spelling, I'm going to share your insights. Thank you!