"Yeah," I said to a math teacher in my building. "I read this really great article about literacy instruction in the content areas. It talks about how in math you should use a close reading strategy and in social studies you should use a skimming strategy." I went on to make a copy of the article Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents: Rethinking Content- Area Literacy by Timothy and Cynthia Shanahan from the "Harvard Educational Review" and summarize the very subtle differences between the two strategies.
"Wow! I'd never really thought about it that way before,” he responded eagerly, but also contemplatively.
"I know, neither had I," I somewhat naively admitted. After all, I am the reading teacher! I should know about these things, right?
Almost simultaneously, this math teacher and I said, "We should collaborate."
"Yeah, maybe I should do a close reading strategy lesson, and you should do a math lesson on theorems.” The conversation continued until the math teacher had to go take care of some other business. My supervisor walked into the room.
"Look," I said, showing my supervisor the article and getting excited. I went into a discussion of close reading and skimming. My supervisor just looked at me, and smiled blankly. "Aren't they all the same?"
Clearly, no, they weren't to the math
teacher and me. We wanted to play with these ideas together and
hoped to develop a new teaching method based on this new research.
Later that day we had a professional development on the upcoming Quality Review. Ironically enough, the focus of the Quality Review was on literacy. The math teacher and I shared notes at the back of the room about our upcoming lessons we wanted to collaborate on.
Good teaching is about the trees – which strategy to use when, who sits next to whom in a classroom, using us rather than I in a lesson objective to build community, and a million other little tricks, or nuances, that teachers use to build our classrooms.
Unfortunately, too much of school reform is about the forest -- big sweeping movements that make structural changes. In this we lose the nuances that constitute good teaching. However, when teachers collaborate and lead using that collaboration, then we can use those nuances to make more meaningful and lasting changes.