15 Lessons Learned for the 2020-21 School Year: A Blog Series

Photo taken while on a run on Half Moon Bay’s Coastal Trail, July 2020. All photos in this series are my own

All of my good friends, family, and anybody who has ever spent more than 20 minutes in conversation with me knows I am a huge Pearl Jam fan. The words seen here are from the song Release off 1991’s Ten album. I found myself humming, singing, and listening to these lyrics over and over again the past few months, “I’ll ride the wave, where it takes me…” Never have flexibility, understanding, and patience played such a role in my world. I venture to guess in your world as well. What a wave it has been the past few months. Ups, downs, sickness, health, fear, relief, loss, love, and still complete uncertainty.

Our role as teachers has never been so important and has also never been so undefined. I don’t know where the wave will take us in the coming months. I don’t think any of us know, but I have a few lessons to offer and ideas to share to potentially help us all ride the wave together.

I am not an expert in online learning. In fact, I struggled with it this past spring. Like many of you, I am a classroom teacher who spent the spring of 2020 trying it, reflecting on it, noticing successes and complete misses, and listening to feedback from colleagues, my students, and my students’ caregivers. I rode the wave, and I’m about to dive in again. We all are. So, I decided to share some of the lessons I’ve learned to help my fellow classroom teachers as you join me in riding another wave of uncertainty: the 2020-21 school year.

The 15 lessons that I’ll share in the coming days and weeks are born of the mistakes I made, successes I had, and the many conversations I’ve had and books I’ve read over the past few months. The posts will include helpful resources, recommended books, and maybe even a video or two. This blog series is meant to offer ideas, support, and a little camaraderie as the 2020-21 school year approaches.

How This Series is Organized

  • Posts 1-5, July 20th-24th- the human aspect of teaching: our relationships.
  • Posts 6-10, July 27th-August 4th- establishing care and trust: those critical first days of school
  • Posts 11-15, August 6th-13th- striving for a productive year for all: big overarching ideas

Each post will be short by design and will only take a few minutes to read. In the comments section each day, I’d love to hear about the lessons you’ve learned as well. Teachers freely and openly sharing with each other is more important than ever.

Subscribe to the blog by clicking on the Follow this Blog link to get each post delivered to your inbox or check back here. The 15 lessons learned will be posted over the next three weeks between July 20th and August 12th.

We have to support and lift each other up right now. I’m here for you. And, I just might ask you to be there for me, too. Let’s ride this wave together.


Posts in the Series Will be Added Here as They’re Published

Even Our Youngest Writers Are Making Strategic Decisions

In our work together, Kari Yates and I often share with teachers our belief that all readers are constantly making strategic decisions. It is our job as teachers to let students in on the secret. Many times, students are using skills and strategies and aren’t even aware they are doing so. When we recognize and name what our readers are doing, it is very likely they will do it again. Thus, they will continue to grow as readers.

Our work as teachers is to celebrate the effort, approximations, and new strategic work that our students are continually doing. Kari and I often talk about this with readers, but the same goes for our student writers.

During conferences and small groups with students, when we recognize, name, and point out the strategic moves they are making, we are intentionally offering teaching that will support them in using these skills and strategies again and again.

I am so excited to share this idea tomorrow with elementary teachers in Los Gatos, CA! In our three professional development sessions around writing workshop, we are going to practice recognizing, naming, and pointing out the strategic moves that student writers are making, and then thinking about possible next steps to help them grow. Can you name some of the strategic decisions these writers made?

As teaching colleagues, one of the most powerful things we can do to refine our practice and grow ourselves is to analyze student work together. I can’t think of a better way to spend a staff meeting, grade level collaboration session, or professional development day. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So, I took a risk…

This school year, I took a risk (which is so unlike me) by taking a slightly reduced teaching contract so I could open up more days to bring my deep love of literacy education to teachers in other schools and districts across the Bay Area and other parts of the West. I love teaching kids, but I equally love teaching teachers- I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to do both. My schedule is already completely full for the year. Day one of working with teachers is this Monday! I am so excited for the opportunity to work with the teachers at Laurel School in Menlo Park… I’m looking forward to sharing these great books and discussing different ways to kick off and make the most of reading workshop for all students. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.  And, I’m now booking for the summer of 2020 and the 2020-21 school year!