Making Choices, Raising Voices

As of Monday, October 30th, LRNG grant students have begun to publish their writing in the community. We are excited to soon share how these opportunities have brought students and their families together with community partners in the name of students’ work and interests. But before we talk more about the details of the products, I wanted to address the layers of process work we’ve engaged in through September and October.

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Over the last two months, the seven LRNG grant teachers and I have formed a professional team that has been supporting each other through brainstorming, advice, shared readings and deep discussions. We’ve grappled over how to guide multilingual and monolingual K-4th grade students to make choices in seating, in language, in tools, in audiences, and in topics for writing. Each teacher has made decisions about when and how to step in to move students forward and build on strengths and when to step back to make more room for students’ autonomy decision-making in time-management or craft.

Randy Bomer (who, together with Katherine Bomer, was recently awarded NCTE’s 2017 Outstanding Elementary Educator in the English Language Arts) once told me that he sees Writing Workshop as the Trojan Horse of social justice. The structures of writing workshop, paired with the additive beliefs and appreciative lens we work with teachers to adopt, brings to underprivileged students the types of agentic learning opportunities that are commonly reserved for their more privileged peers. Through their work, our Choice and Voice teachers have been advocating for equitable learning opportunities for their students and, as this article about the negative impacts of the “word gap” argument calls for, have been working to “address both pedagogical skill and deficit thinking at the same time”.

In planning for their units of study, these Choice and Voice teachers have stretched themselves as professionals to try out new pedagogical skills. At the same time, they have engaged in reflection about how the decisions they make either support or suppress student learning. They have advocated for equitable learning opportunities for their students. They have looked at their students’ work with appreciative eyes, building on strengths rather than focusing on deficits.

Bastrop teachers are making choices that are raising the voices of their small students in big ways. I can hardly wait to share the fruits of their efforts but, for now, let’s take a moment to just appreciate the power of their process.

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