It’s been a good week for Dr. Sam’s professional development: Here are some key takeaways

It’s been a good week for Dr. Sam’s professional development: Here are some key takeaways

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

This week has been an exceptional week for me in terms of P.D. and my growth in professional learning. Even after over 50 years as a teacher, staff developer and college professor, I am still learning new things. Let’s start with an unexpected but wonderful turn of events that happened because of one of my posts.

I usually start the day checking for good things out there in Cyberland.  I look at the Missouri Literacy Association Facebook page, which always has inspiring comments and great information.  I came across a great  post this week.

When I find a good post like this, I usually repost it on Twitter and my professional Facebook page.  The response was overwhelming. People have been responding all week. Even my non-teacher friends are chiming in. And the responding isn’t over yet- as I did my final revision/edit of this post this morning, I checked, and there was yet another new post.  Of all the responses to this post, the one by Melissa Thurlwell, a 9th grade English teacher and dept. chair, caught my attention. I want to thank Mellissa for permitting me to use a screen capture of her tweet in this blog. And I’d also like to thank her for reminding me that sometimes students can learn more than the teacher teaches. They can take the learning to the next level. Melissa and her class certainly did. Kudos to them. Have a look.

Amid the tremendous negativity that seems to characterize things today, it’s nice to see that there is still room for positive thoughts. It’s also nice to see my belief that writing can be a powerful teaching tool reaffirmed. Again- Kudos to Melissa Thurlwell and her class.

Speaking of writing, the Missouri Literacy Association (full disclosure, I am the president) has many great P.D. events going on. Visit their website to see them all: One of them is a series of workshops by Matt Glover, part of several threads for the Missouri Write To Learn Cyber Conference fd/summary. I am attending the series being carried out by Matt Glover, and once again, the old dog is learning some very new tricks. Here is a little something about Matt and what he’s had to say so far.

Matt knows how to teach about the nuts and bolts of implementing a writing workshop (see my previous post about him, LINK). I first learned about writing workshop over 20 years ago when my district brought in folks like Katie Wood Ray and Isoke Nia to help us learn about workshop teaching. Over the four years they came, they managed to transform this skill and drill empiricist into a workshop teacher. (I am still an empiricist, though). Matt covered many of the things that Katie and Isoke taught me all those years ago and gave me two new and important takeaways.  First, teachers should create AND USE, a conferencing toolkit. He introduced that thought in the last session and promised to show us more about how it is done in the next session. The other is the thought of what teaching should look like in a conference or a class.  Explaining, critiquing and evaluating are not teaching (my take, they are precursors to teaching). To really teach, you must help the student do. This tracks perfectly with Nell Duke’s findings that teaching strategies through gradual release is the best way to teach strategies.  From now on, as I do conferences, I will be much more careful about making sure the student is talking about, using and applying the strategy I am modeling in my teaching point. Thanks, Matt!

MLA is also sponsoring a series of webinars by Dr. Tim Rasinski, a long-time friend of literacy in our state. I’ve written about Tim and his ideas before LINK1, LINK2.  He makes a compelling case for treating the teaching of reading as both art and science.  My regular readers know that I am a centrist, one who says we can and should use ideas from all sides. Tim’s work shows us how there is more to research than just carrying out random assignment-based research. He does do such random assignment research, often called quantitative studies, but he is also a master of qualitative research. For details, check out the two links I just gave you.

So…, it’s been an exceptionally good week professionally.  And I predict next week is going to be equally as good. I just did my first video interview for the blog. So, I am expanding into a whole new genre, a hybrid genre. I’ve taped an interview with Ann Kay, founder of the Rock and Read project. She’ll talk about her project and explain how brain research inspired her to use music in order to help teach reading. This one’s a must-read, and now it’s also must-see.  Next week, tune in to find out about what this new form of blogging looks like. You’ll also find out about a different point of view about what brain research says about how we could/should teach reading.

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, an old dog who is still learning some very new tricks).

Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

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