I am a high school principal in New York City. Well, kind of. But that’s not the point. The point is that after fifteen years in Education, I have known about the link between reading and writing because some of the best ELA teachers in NYC worked for me and they taught me how the two are inextricably linked. I also learned from seminars offered by fellow principals, I remember one by principal Lucinda Mendez, in particular. I have attended countless seminars on the subject of how writing and reading interact in literacy instruction because the Common Core Learning Standards focus on integrating literacy across the curriculum and I was charged with making that happen in all our classrooms by five successive superintendents. The superintendents didn’t agree about much other than their focus on integrating literacy into all subject areas. And I didn’t disagree, per se. Despite all of this experience in teaching teachers about reading and writing, I was able to have a significant breakthrough in my own reading just last month.
After my previous blog post, a family member started a conversation about meditation and the other points of that article. He helped me articulate that my educational philosophy involves a focus on student experience, rather than prescribing what teachers should do or say or even which curriculum they must follow. In other words, experience is where I focus my pedagogy and not on description, which I am arguing is the opposite of experience. I had a hard time being engaged while at “professional development” as an educator because mostly they involved describing good instruction and rarely did they offer us an experience of it as learners.
Imagine someone who is passionate about food. Since they learned knife skills at age five they have loved spending time in the kitchen. They learn to farm their own food, kill their own meat. Everyone knows them for their amazing home cooking. And so they grow up and learn to make a living in the food industry. Fast forward twenty-some-odd years and they are working as a high paid consultant for some of the most posh urban eateries. The only catch is that to maximize their income they are designing farm-to-table menus. They review menus, discuss menus, even create some from scratch for each season. They have contact with paper, printers, glossy and matte finishes, Pantone color chips. They have no contact with the actual food that their menus depict. That was me as a principal in professional trainings. I was sick of looking at descriptions of food on menus. I wanted the experience of eating actual food. I know my fellow educators felt the same way. Describing something is simply not the same as experiencing it. The former makes no difference and the latter is at the heart of learning something new.
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