Today in a workshop, Carl Anderson emphasized the point of being intentional about approaching our conferring from the point of strength of the student. Basically, we learn what they are doing and help them do it better. However, too often we find what they are not doing and then try to get them to do those eighty-seven things we think they should be doing. Then, when the day is over we lament over all our students don’t know. In extreme cases, we even wonder what the teachers before us have been doing.
I’ve been convicted, lately, of the necessity to honor the work of the colleagues before us. They are doing smart, strong, and effective teaching — it simply takes years for our students to become experienced writers. Not to mention, as students develop, so do their needs as writers. Often they are having issues that are only appropriate for the grade we teach — the teacher the year before didn’t teach them x, because the students weren’t ready for it then.
Until we all — kindergarten through twelfth grade — approach our teaching of language arts from the point of our students’ strengths and help them do the work they are approximating better, we will short change our students.