I recently read an article by Cornelius Minor put out by Heinemann. The article was adapted from Mr. Minor’s new book, We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us To Be (Heinemann, 2018)
The article really hit home with me. It made me think about the National Board Teacher certification process and grow your own practice which are really dual paths.
When thinking about the career continuum above you have to be doing the thinking and curriculum blending/bending Mr. Minor talks about to move towards becoming a National Board Certified Teacher.
Take a look at the National Board Certified Teacher(NBCT), Architecture of Accomplished Teaching, and think about Mr. Minor’s ideas shared in the article.
These are things all accomplished teachers have to be doing as they reflect and help build and bend curriculum and programs to meet the needs of their students. To be an NBCT you cannot simply follow scripted programs or curriculum that keep you from growing your practice.
“Growing your own practice” is something I heard Sunday Cummins said once in a PD session. To me this means to take what you are being given, and improve upon it for your students needs and your own. Turn, it, twist it and reflect on how it can be applied with your own students. Figure out what is working for your students and what is not. Grow and build upon what you are being given. NBCT’s and teachers who grow their own practice don’t simply criticize and complain. They know and understand the vision of their school and district and meet those visions and along with student needs by bending curriculum, not breaking it. They also move beyond mimicking. It is not enough for your own students or yourself not to thinking and reflect and grow. You have to take the information you are being given and use it to build upon and improve your own instruction, not mimic someones else. Now to be fair you may start out as a mimic but you will never continue to grow if you stay there.
I looked up the word practitioner and the definition is: a person engaged in the practice of a profession, occupation, etc. I feel it has become kind of a buzz word these days, and I feel to grow your own practice, you have to be a practitioner of literacy or mathematics and so on. I feel the word engaged is a keyword to remember in that definition. Mimics I feel are only partially engaged. You are not completely engaged when you are just copying another. True engagement requires more in-depth thinking than that.
I think the same should be said about curriculum. Mr. Minor states several things in the article that hold true to growing your own practice when it comes teaching a curriculum or program. As he points out “any curriculum or “program” that we buy, adopt, or create is incomplete until it includes our students and until it includes us.” We have to take that grow your own practice approach with programs and curriculum. Take what is given and build on it. Mr. Minor goes on to say that “my job as a teacher …is to seek to understand my kids as completely as possible so that I can purposefully bend curriculum to meet them.”
He talks about how programs and curriculum that are any good, must be flexible and allow you to bend it some. The curriculum must also help teachers continue to grow. You cannot grow with rigid programs that leave out the teacher’s decision-making processes, which probably leaves out opportunities for kids to make decisions for themselves as well. He really focuses in on getting to know your students needs and backgrounds and using that to help you bend the curriculum to fit them. I hope that in your schools, you are allowed to bend the curriculum for your students. Use what you are given, understand it, try it out, and shift what you need to as you continue to grow your own practice, be your own practitioner. Don’t expect your district to be your practitioner! On the same note remember programs and curriculum are written to help us, and are full of some great things! We do not have time to build our own from scratch. Use the solid foundation they create for you and that you are expected too, but bend and build as you need to, for your students.
Check out the article and let me know your own thought!
I will have a part 2 to this post coming soon, applying this specifically to literacy instruction.