I spent the better portion of last week on Long Island, introducing Studio to junior and senior high school teachers and exploring writing instruction and practice with them in a variety of settings. Part of our work unfolded in workshop sessions, there were several conversations with diverse groups, and we spent extended time coaching in both buildings. I learned a great deal from this experience and will probably devote most of this week’s posts to what I took away and the questions that I’m left with.
One of the greatest challenges that all facilitators face is ensuring sustainable learning and work. I’m still uncertain whether this is even possible, but my fellowship with Communities for Learning has inspired me to plan for this far better than I was ever able to in the past. I embraced literacy coaching as a means to a more sustainable end several years ago, and in the process, I’m discovering that facilitating lasting learning experiences is just as challenging for coaches as it is for those lead event-based professional development. I’m realizing that sustainability has less to do with how often people are exposed to information and support and more to do with the ways in which information and support are accessed and provided.
Often, adult learners expect (even demand) “stuff.” When teachers invest a chunk of their time in professional learning, they often want to leave with some “thing” to show for it. Resources. Materials. Tools. Examples. When I consider sustainability, I struggle with this reality. I’m not certain how this helps to create lasting learning experiences. And yet……
Isn’t there a time and a place for sharing what we know in service to others who are just beginning their study or practice? Aren’t models a necessity? Doesn’t gradual release imply moments where facilitators “do” while participants “watch”?
Last week, the teachers that I worked with were exposed to the Studio writing community model directly. I shared the work of our community and what I’ve learned as a teacher, coach, and professional development provider over the years with the group as a whole. Then, they had the opportunity to assess their own needs and engage in a variety of center-based experiences aligned to them. Each center provided models, resources, and questions intended to prompt further conversation. Teachers were expected to share their own ideas, strategies, and tools. This gave me time to confer with people individually and to sit in on conversations as a listener and participant myself.
This was my effort to strike a balance between “providing teachers stuff”, engaging them in their own learning, and expecting them to share their expertise with one another. If you’d like access to the centers, you can download them here. If you have other things to add to that space, please join and share what you can. I plan to spend some time this week adding links and web resources as well. I’m going to bet that few people will do this within the wiki though–just as few people did it within the physical centers themselves.
I wonder what would have happened if each center was absent of models and “stuff”? What if teachers visited each center to engage in discourse and reflection and share what they do? How would this have changed the experience? What kind of value would have been added? What might have been lost?