My core beliefs as a teacher #UNHLit16

Why are you choosing to do what you’re choosing to do? What are your core beliefs as a teacher? @pennykittle @KellyGtoGo

That’s something I would have tweeted had I been tweeting during our time today with Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher at UNHLit16.

(But I was too focused on taking notes, on capturing the thoughts spinning in my head, on listening to Penny and Kelly and to my neighbors during turn-and-talks, on marking up my semester calendar for the fall so I don’t forget all the ideas sparking for me for my classroom.)

Let me preface my list of core beliefs as a teacher with what comes up when you google “belief definition”:

Definition of belief

There’s been a lot of talk in my household lately about the word “belief.” My science teacher husband, @pkstrode (he blogs over at Mr. Dr. Science Teacher) is currently reading up on philosophy of all kinds as he composes a blog post about why he bristles at the words “I believe…” when people are actually talking about something they know due to evidence-based knowledge. He redirects his students when they say “I believe…” in his biology classes. “I accept…” he suggests instead.

But in this case, when I am articulating the convictions that underpin my teaching, when I am identifying the concepts I trust to serve my students best as readers and writers, the ideologies, principles, tenets, the things I give credence to…the things I accept to be true, the conclusions I’ve come to after 20 years of teaching… (see how I’m drawing on that definition up there?), “belief” captures all of that.

So here’s a rough start to my list of core beliefs that underpin my instruction:

  • Students need to read and write because they are human beings living in the world. We must read the world to be able to write our future within it.
  • Students learn to value what we spend class time on. I must give them space to read and write in class as much as possible.
  • Students need to make decisions and think on their own. I will not do all of the thinking work for them.
  • My classroom can inspire and empower students to have a positive impact on their world. We can fight the tyranny of the single story by reading books and cultivating voice.
  • Students need to develop agency because in their lives, no one will be coming along and telling them what to do.
  • Reading and writing are most meaningful when they happen in a community– time spent on building classroom community is critical.
  • I will deflect students’ gaze from points and grades so they can focus on learning instead.
  • Rather than imposing on all students the same set of standards, I can trust students to identify for themselves what they want/need to learn and know.
  • I read and write with my students and do the same work I ask of them.
  • Authentic learning is messy, and that’s okay.
  • A room full of engaged teenagers can be chaotic at times, and that’s okay.

Here are more tweets I would have sent out from room 240 today:

@KellyGtoGo said his students aren’t reading anymore. They’re fake reading. So he wants to change what he’s doing. Me too.

Can’t wait to read the book, @pennykittle and @KellyGtoGo!

Stop book talking! (don’t actually) Too many awesome titles! Must. Not. Go. To. Amazon…

Kids need to generate their own ideas, their own writing. They spend too much of their day answering the teacher’s questions. @pennykittle @KellyGtoGo

Write in front of your students. They need to see the teacher struggle too. @pennykittle @KellyGtoGo

Actual writing in classrooms is often dominated by tasks where the teacher does all the composing. Students grow as task completers, not as writers. @pennykittle @KellyGtoGo

If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got. @KellyGtoGo’s grandfather

Missing my teaching colleagues today, my awesome PLC. @ThePaperGrader

“Literature is life’s dress rehearsal.”–Dave Gioia @kate_flowers


Yesterday at 7am mountain time, I walked off my front porch in Colorado, pulling my lime green suitcase behind me. By 7pm east coast time, I was here, getting settled into my dorm room, finishing the reading for today, and getting accustomed to the humidity (I grew up in dry mountain air, ok?).

What a gift to be here at the University of New Hampshire finally for one of these summer literacy experiences.

I’m full of gratitude.

Thanks to my school’s parent organization for the grant to support me in doing this. Thanks to my family for letting me jet off to the East Coast for a few days.

And thanks to Penny and Kelly for teaching and thinking and writing together. I and so many teachers–and the students in our classrooms–will continue to benefit from your work.

This entry was posted in #UNHLit16, colleagues, cultivating real learning, engagement, grading, gratitude, making change, not grading, on the road again, professional development, reflections, teaching, things made of awesome, workshop teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

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