Teaching writers' workshop is the best thing I do all day. It is powerful to help young children to become writers. Great books, intentional instruction, high expectations, and wide open spaces. Think Katie Wood Ray. Think Ralph Fletcher. It all comes together here.

Same philosophies extend to instructional coaching. It's about clarity of intention, reflection, and ownership. Working side by side. Building communities of learners (of all ages).

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What are you Reading?

I recently heard Leslie Blauman speak, and she made an observation about the reading habits of teachers that I cannot stop thinking about. She claims that teachers aren't reading professional books anymore.

In fact, she says, educational publishers are struggling in the current market, because teachers aren't buying professional books the way they used to. And the books educators are buying are smaller, more bite-sized and practical than the professional books of yore.

My first reaction was denial. I feel like my professional book budget gets bigger every year, not smaller. With all there is to learn (and the pressure to learn it), the book business should be booming!

On the one hand, I can see how resources like Twitter, blogs, and digital versions of journals like Educational Leadership are appealing to educators. Ideas flow fast, and there's no commitment if it's not what you need. I love having access to such great thinking on my phone or iPad at any time. It's essential to be a connected educator, and I would argue that I have learned just as much online from my PLN as I have from books.

But I don't think the educational publishing slump can be blamed entirely on social media and digital resources. . . And something tells me that the educators exploring new ways to access and share the latest thinking in education online are the ones who ARE still buying professional books (based on how many new books I hear about from Twitter).

The real question--and the one that scares me to answer--is: Are there teachers who have stopped reading, period?

I know the workload on teachers is crazy-unreasonable, but what happens to a profession if the professionals don't make time to learn? There is no way to master the craft and content we are expected to demonstrate if our only learning happens during the weekly staff meeting. It is just not possible (or appropriate) to expect that to be enough. If we are going to inspire a growth mindset in our students, then we need to model that growth mindset. We must read.

Additionally, I believe it's important to support the professional book industry so that we continue to have choices in the kinds of books being created. Print media is not the only way to have a voice in education, but it would certainly change the landscape of our profession if only the largest companies survive, homogenizing the professional literature.

What can we Do?

As an Instructional Coach, I would rather focus on the solution than bemoan the problem. If it is our reality that teachers are not finding (or making) the time to read--whether that is books or whether that is articles, blogs, or Twitter chats--then I wonder what my role might be in supporting a professional reading culture in my building.

Over the next month, I'm going to look for ways to feed the work I'm already doing with teachers with the "just right" resources to support that embedded learning. This might be one-on-one in a coaching cycle, in a team PLC, or as optional supports after some small or whole group learning.

If the right book in the right hand is too much, then I can target the right chapter of the right book instead. Maybe if that chapter is just what someone needs, it will build trust in future recommendations. If the thought of diving into Twitter is too overwhelming, perhaps a link to a blog from another reflective teacher might be just enough to open a door for collaboration.

My goal is to look for opportunities to be both invitational and intentional in supporting the professional reading community in my school. I don't want to overwhelm, but we need fuel on the fire if we're going to spark conversation about professional reading.

There are plenty of teachers in my building who are already voracious professional readers. But just like in our classrooms, if we aren't talking about what we're reading, it doesn't build a reading community. Without a reading community, there is no welcoming arm around the shoulder of the reluctant reader to pull him or her into the fold.

I'm thinking about ways to open the doors to our professional reading lives the way we strive to open the doors to our professional practice. . .


  1. This is sad to hear, the decline in reading professional books, but I for one am not part of that group! I just came home from a conference with another and a list of three more after that!
    I think your plans for recommending reading to your teachers is great! Keep us posted as to how it goes! :-)

    1. Thanks, I will! Every time we share what we're reading with a colleague, we help to elevate and spread the reader mindset. Thanks for commenting!

  2. This was an inspirational post! Building a literate community and an identity as readers is critical if we are to do the same with our students. I love how you shared your Good Reads as an example. Perhaps teachers might also enjoy Bookopolis or BookNasium? Stephanie Affinito @AffinitoLit

    1. I'm not familiar with Bookopolis or BookNasium--I'll have to check them out. Thanks so much for sharing!