Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher Workshop—from a new teacher perspective.

Readers/writers workshop is a concept that has fascinated me for a while now. But, as a first year teacher, I haven’t felt confident enough to implement it in my classroom. I felt (and still do) that I needed more information, more knowledge, before I could successfully introduce such a strategy to my students.

Which made today an invaluable experience. Having the chance to sit in the front row while Kittle and Gallagher spoke about the approaches they use in their classrooms provided me with information I have long felt I needed.

I knew, long before I settled on teaching as a profession, that if I ever set foot in a classroom, I would want to do away with the traditional approach to teaching. The classes I learned from most in college were those that were student-led, and I came into this year wanting to provide a similar experience for my seniors. I truly admire the way both Kittle and Gallagher handle reading and writing instruction. Their focus is on students, not standards, and they create environments for authentic learning.

One thing they spoke about today was leading students from victimhood to agency. And, not only students, but educators as well. Often, we try to entice students to take risks in their learning without being willing to do so ourselves. I realize, as I’m writing this, that I don’t have to master reading/writing workshop theory before bringing it in to the classroom. I’ve been willing to experiment in many aspects of my teaching, but failure has always been a fear of mine, and one that has held me back on more than one occasion. But I know that I won’t grow, and neither will my students, if I’m not willing to take risks.

If there’s one thing I hope you take from this, it’s something Kelly told us at the end of the workshop. Great teachers don’t happen all at once; they happen through 5% of growth at a time. That’s it, just 5% a year. So go out, take risks, even if it’s only 5% of the time. Your students will thank you. And don’t be afraid to let them see you try and fail. It lets them know your human.

–Chéylyn

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