Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guest Blogger - Tenille Shade Meets The Sisters


Tenille Shade is a 4th grade teacher with Denton ISD. 

Louise Morgan is such an amazing parent and teacher. I first got to know her after teaching her oldest daughter, Rebekah, years ago when I was still young and green.  We later worked together at Sycamore Elementary, and I was always in awe of her positive energy and creative spirit. Her marriage is an inspiration, and I consider it an honor to be a guest blogger on her website, The Frugal Teacher. Thanks for letting me share Wezie!

The Sisters – Rockstars for Teachers!
Several years ago, I had the privilege of seeing Gail Boushey and Joan Moser present a workshop in Fort Worth, Texas. I had read The Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades during the previous spring, and I was pumped about implementing the workshop model in my 4th grade classroom. At the time, I had struggled to find a manageable way to differentiate reading instruction for every child, and I was hungry to find a system that would allow me to keep kids engaged in literacy task while I worked with individual students and small groups.
During the spring of 2008, I attempted to launch the first “daily”.  I was absolutely blown away by the power of Read to Self. Kids were no longer shopping for books, blowing their noses, or asking to the go the bathroom during sustained silent reading. Instead, they were truly engaged in reading books of their choice. Since Read to Self had worked out so well, I decided it would be best to save the rest of the “dailies” for later. The 10 steps to independence had changed my teaching life, and I certainly didn’t want to mess up a good thing.
Fast forward to the present. Last week, Denton ISD, generously sponsored a trip to San Antonio to see The Sisters present live. A group of 13 teachers carpooled south, hoping for a whiz-bang learning experience. The sisters did not disappoint! As we walked into the hotel conference center, the room buzzed with excitement. The Sisters were welcoming and engaging from the moment the session began, and their wit and humor captured and sustained our attention throughout the day.
As the workshop unfolded, astonishment and awe washed over me each time The Sisters referenced a new, insightful piece of educational research designed to keep educators moving forward. I actually pulled up my old notes from four years ago to compare, and not one piece of research they shared was the same. These ladies are voracious readers and learners, which inspires me to continue on a path of rigorous professional development.
On day one of the workshop, they provided explicit instruction about creating a culture of trust and respect. They spoke of the intangible qualities present in a classroom where these core values are honored. I greatly appreciated how they walked us though the evolution of literacy, looking at a historical overview spanning from the 1970’s to the present. Their willingness to reflect on their previous practices speaks volumes about their commitment to student learning.
As an intermediate teacher who is departmentalized, I was encouraged to hear that they are now recommending two rounds of the dailies for the upper grades. I was challenged to find a way to integrate reading and writing workshop which honors student choice. The Sisters reminded me of the importance of keeping our lessons “mini”, and they cited brain research related to a child’s ability to maintain focus for the length of their age. If my students are 10 years old, then I have ten minutes to talk and instruct. Anything I say or do after this time allotment is lost because their brains transition into the lower cortex, which is responsible for blinking and breathing.
The Sisters presentation style had also evolved over the years. The design of their PowerPoint presentation caught my attention, and I could tell they had studied John Medina’s book, Brain Rules. They purposefully used noise and movement throughout the workshop to keep all participants brains functioning at their highest level.
One of my favorite quotes came from a local literacy coach who said, “It doesn’t matter what journey you are on. Just make sure you are on a journey!” These words continue to resonate with my heart, and I believe our students deserve teachers who are perpetual learners themselves. The Sisters set an example of excellence for all educators, and if you every have a chance to see them in person, I highly recommend signing up! 

Tenille with Gail Boushey and Joan Moser at the San Antonio conference.
For more information on upcoming events visit www.thedailycafe.com