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Monday, July 7, 2014

Excepts from an Excellent Essay about How Empowering Teachers Leads to Stronger Reading Achievement

Okay, I know that I usually use this space to review children's literature for teachers and parents, but last week I was reading an essay that I stumbled across that was written by Dr. Gerald Duffy when he was president of the National Reading Conference in 1990.  I found I was underlining a lot of passages and wishing I had someone else in my office at that moment so I could read these parts out loud and we could get really enthusiastic about them.  So I decided I'd share them with you.  Read a little bit of it.  See if you like it.  I only have a hard copy and I cannot find a copy on-line to link to, but I'll include the citation at the end.  So anyway, here are some quotes. 

"Our failure to improve classroom literacy instruction is liked to a failure to put teachers in charge."  (p.1)

"We need empowered teachers because only empowered teachers are creative enough to develop the rich literacy we all say we want.  Rich literacy demands authentic occasions for literacy which cannot be anticipated by programs and procedures, but must be created by the teacher on the spot; rich literacy demands socially constructed learning embedded in instructional dialogues which cannot be anticipated by programs and procedures but must be created by the teacher on the spot; and, most importantly, rich literacy demands a tailoring of instruction to circumstances which cannot be anticipated by programs and procedures, but must be created by teachers on the spot.  In short, rich literacy demands teachers who create "  (p.4)

"Teachers, like pilots, chose to teach because they want to perform difficult and challenging work.  But when we take the control away from them by directing them to follow materials or codified approaches or tested procedures, we make them into technicians who follow directions.  In so doing, we rob them of their professional dignity."  (p.5)

"[Empowered teachers] are not randomly employing theories of procedures.  Nor are they viewing knowledge as a set of rules or dogma to be faithfully followed in rigid ways.  Instead, empowered teachers combine, adapt, and orchestrate what they know, creating new ways to achieve enriched literacy as new situations arise, just as they combine, just as they combine adapt, and orchestrate a variety of materials to achieve that goal."  (p.6)

"The assumption that anyone -- university people or school people -- has all the answers in teaching literacy reveals an alarming naiveté about the complexity of classroom life." (p.7) 

"...Teaching is a matter of knowing that there's always something -- many things -- you can't attend to right now, but you ought to, somehow, sometime.  Regrets, errors, incompleteness of success are build into teaching as into life.   Improvement is only possible if you see that."  (p. 9)

"one of my colleagues at Michigan State recently summed this up well.  She was suggesting that I give up travelling to northern Michigan and to substitute instead interactive television uplinks which would allow me to stay on campus.  When I relied that such technology does not help teachers use knowledge in their specific classroom contexts, she told me, "Yes, Gerry, by we're in the business of producing degrees here, and a degree means you've studied something, not necessarily that you can do it."  (p. 9)

Good stuff.   Here is the citation:

Duffy, Gerald G. (1991) What counts in Teacher Education?:  Dilemmas in educating empowered teachers"  in Zutell, Jerry and Sandra McCormick's Learner Factors/Teacher Factors:  Issues in Literacy Research and Instruction:  The Fortieth Yearbook of the National Reading Conference  National Reading Conference Publishers

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