The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Literacy, it is what great schools do.

Dear Pernille,

I read your post with great interest, I’m always looking for ways to be a champion of literacy. It’s a simple idea, but I want our school to be a place where students grow as readers. I’m doing a lot of the things you wrote about (investing in books, talking about reading, promoting choice). I’m serious about working with our teachers to expand access to our Media Center. One of my proudest accomplishments at my last school was the “24 minute guarantee.” Students at our school read for at least 24 minutes per day on average in their ELA classes. I wrote about some of the work we’ve done in a post late last year. 

Here’s  where I’m confident we agree:

The best way to improve student’s reading abilities is to provide them time to read, choice of what they read, and to talk with them (we call it conferring where I am from)  about what they read.

No matter what tomorrow’s economy holds, reading skills will be central to every economic sector. 

Principals and ELA teachers should all have a copy of “The Book Whisperer” on their shelves, and should revisit it regularly to ensure we are doing what we should be doing.

Here’s where I may see it differently:

I read for fun, and I know you do too. I don’t know that we are members of the majority. Informational reading is key to that economic future I wrote about, and those skills need to be more of a focus area in all classrooms in our school. Choice is important, but so is the ability to sit down and read something assigned that you will be responsible to know about. 

Here’s what I need:

I’m doing my best to engage our entire staff in a conversation about the skills we want our students to walk away from our school with. Unfortunately for me, this often sounds to our Science and Social Studies departments like I am saying “everyone is an ELA teacher.” That’s not what I am saying, and I could use some help from people such as yourself to reassure and support this idea. Talk with your colleagues, help them see the difference between the work you are doing and they work they are doing. Help them see where your work overlaps and how you can support one another. Make it a priority, don’t always wait for me to initiate the meting or the time to sit down. Last year, I saw and heard about ELA, Science and Social Studies teachers talking about writing. These are the conversations that need to grow, sometimes without me creating the time and space. 

I’d also love an invitation. I’d love to come and read with your group. I’d love to confer with some students  about what they are reading. 

Thanks for the chance to talk literacy, together we’re better.

Your thought partner,

John

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