Last week, I wrote about my presentation to our school board which centered around my role as our FMCSD district literacy coach, the Science of Reading, the adoption of a high quality literacy curriculum, and how instructional coaching is a critical piece of implementation. Part of what I was speaking to was that
I am we are leading change. We can’t do it alone: I am leading change right along side fellow instructional coaches, administrators, and teachers.
I have written about change frequently, and always fall back on George Couros and what he has to say about change. He just reminded us in a weekly email last week: don’t hesitate to say something you’ve said before if it is worth repeating. The following from George is definitely worth repeating, over and over again!
The Amazing edWeb.net
I recently attended an absolutely inspiring EdWebinar, hosted by edWeb.net: Leadership and the Science of Reading: an Honest Look at the Joys and Challenges of School Transformation. The lineup of presenters was intriguing enough, and man, did they deliver!
When Danielle Thompson, founder of the Transformative Reading Teacher Group, (quoting someone else) said, “…urgent in the moment because we have young scholars who need us to be, patient with the results. That can take 5 -10 years, ” I was reminded, yet again, how urgent the need for change around literacy instruction is, yet how patient we need to be in seeing the results. We are a society that seeks instant gratification. Learning how to teach reading effectively (systematically and explicitly) and learning how to “crack the code” as a reader are slow processes, the antithesis of instant gratification. Both processes can gain speed when there is collective efficacy on the part of the educators, and those leading the educators, around sustaining change.
Donna Hejtmanek, founder of Science of Reading, What I Should Have Learned in College, reminds us that this change has to be both”… a top-down, bottom-up system of change.” In other words, leadership (administration, instructional coaches, and teacher leaders) must have a clear understanding of effective reading instruction/the Science of Reading, with a clear vision of how to drive the change necessary to implement said instruction, and a willingness to stay the course. In turn, those folks in the trenches must be patient with themselves as they experience the discomfort that comes with necessary change.
I have frequently expressed my regret in our roll-out of the EL Education curriculum. It’s a phenomenal curriculum that aligns with the Science of Reading, as explained in a recent blogpost from EL: The Science of Reading at the Heart of the Curriculum. My regret in our roll-out is that we (leadership) got caught up in the urgency of a need for change based on our reading proficiency status, so we moved forward with an adoption of a curriculum that we had a clear understanding of. Our error was in not taking the time to do what Casey Bertram, Superintendent of Bozeman Public Schools in Montana says: “…frontload the teachers’ knowledge before dropping a curriculum in their laps.”
Know Better, Do Better
This is where the all-famous “Know better, do better,” quote comes into play. As our district begins to look at adoption of a high school ELA curriculum, we will take the lessons learned from our last adoption and do better. What does that look like? Slowing down: take the next year to establish our mission and vision around high school literacy, use reputable resources to narrow our choices of curricula, and work together as teachers and leaders to select a curriculum that aligns with our mission and vision.
Speaking of high school… many high school students in this nation are suffering from a lack of systematic and explicit literacy instruction in the younger grades. Their reading proficiency (or lack thereof) is the result of receiving balanced literacy instruction rather than structured literacy instruction. Casey Bertram puts it this way: “…it’s pretty hard to be a middle school or high school student in our system right now if you didn’t have Science of Reading instruction in place, so we have to offer grace to those teachers and those families. Those high school kids want to be college and career ready. We are behind the ball getting them caught up. Let’s give our kids dignity!” Pati Montgomery of Schools Cubed reminds us: “It takes everybody to move these kids. It shouldn’t be left to SPED or ELA teachers,” which speaks, again, to the role leadership plays in driving needed change.
Some Parting Questions for Reflection
Terrie Noland, Vice President of Educator Initiatives at Learning Ally, speaks to leadership beautifully when she says, “A leader is about influence, not position.” I think Terrie may have been quoting Brené Brown?
Leaders everywhere: How are we influencing positive change around literacy instruction? Are we relying on the power of collaboration? Are we meeting educators where they are at, not where we want them to be? Are we listening to understand? Are we reaching out to people who are grounded in the research for help? Are we embracing humility and vulnerability to acknowledge our own errors?