This is the latest in a series of blog posts by a partnering cohort member.
By: Michelle Dietrich
...I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. the world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water …
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
-from monet refuses the operation, by Lisel Mueller
Months ago, I was invited, along with a team of teachers from my school, to become a part of this “thing” - a project that is not a project. Fluency. I can’t remember the details of the discussion with MaryLu Hutchins and Lou Karas, but their passion for the project was contagious. I agreed to join, and encouraged my teachers as well, even though I could not explain to them exactly what it was, or what it entailed. It’s MaryLu and Lou; it’s got to be good!
I have gone through many phases of understanding throughout this experience, which for my team and me began in August 2018. Since then, we have participated in three workshops and have had the opportunity to learn from the experiences of several educators who have embraced the mindset shift necessary for true education reform.
After the first workshop, we were excited and energized - ready to jump into the school year and “be the change.” And, then, the real world expectations of curriculum and standards stopped us in our tracks. The meetings - reviewing test data, figuring out how to implement a new math series, and a new phonics program, and the day to day requirements of our jobs put us into survival mode. Thoughts of equity, authenticity, compassion and agency were in the deep recesses of our minds, but seemed impossible to access.
Then, we received the workshop reminder for December. We went into panic mode - what does this mean? What numerical and narrative goals are they talking about? Why did it make sense in August and now I can’t for the life of me figure out what I am supposed to be doing. And, why on earth are we having a meeting in December? We are just trying to survive until Christmas break!
The December meeting arrived. Stop. Be here now. These words resonated with the thoughts racing around in my brain. Be. Here. Now. We were challenged - think about your experiences up to this point; think about the connections you have made with your students. Think about how you can invite more student voice. Think about how you can dive into more narrative data about your students - beyond their numbers, who are they? Leaving this meeting, there is a underlying belief that this day was needed. An intentional pause to reflect on our practices can only make us better. Spending time hearing about what other schools were doing, how they were connecting the elements of Fluency into their instruction provided more clarity to our vision.
While we felt a little better about our understanding of Fluency, so that we didn’t get caught off guard again, we decided to meet as a school team before the next workshop. We determined that we are going to go in with ideas and dedicate some time to talking about Fluency and what it means for us, in our classrooms, in our school. We started to make connections outside of our classrooms; we developed plans. And, then, the next meeting.
We walked into this meeting with a greater understanding of what we were doing, and then we were given almost 30 minutes of silence to reflect on our plans. This was hard. Silence. We are teachers and not quite sure what to do with this. So, we began to talk to one another. Good conversation, but then, a reminder. This is supposed to be a quiet time. Dig back into those deep recesses. How are you accessing equity, authenticity, compassion and agency. What does it look like in your classroom, in your school?
This process has not been linear. We have gone in loops and swirls. Things that didn’t connect before are starting to touch. Lines are blurred between curriculum and standards and the tenets of Fluency. It begins to flow into our thought processes, into our planning. We begin to understand how it is a project - that is not a project. I can truly say that I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other.