On not throwing in the towel

by gillis

After attending a workshop with Nancie Atwell last Friday, I returned to school yesterday and shared some of the ideas that were presented–but only after I was asked. I’m not a fool. I know my coworkers. When I spoke about the things that resonated with me about Atwell’s instructional model, I was essentially repeating my ideas of what good literacy and writing instruction look like. My colleagues have heard this from me before and having a leader in the field present them with student work to back them up didn’t change their reaction.

“Oh well, she started her own private school so she can do whatever she wants, but we teach in the real world.”

“How do you explain to parents that you’re not using a report card with grades?”

“Who has the time for all of that? We have over 80 kids to teach.”

I could go on and on, and I understand what they are saying, even if I don’t agree with it. I’m already doing many of the things that Nancie Atwell shared. And I think I could implement more of the things that make her students strong writers and thinkers. It’s not rocket surgery. It is work however, and some of the work is messy and intellectual and I think that’s where my coworkers tend to throw in the towel. And they’d like me to throw it in too. When they think something will make their jobs easier in the end, they are willing to put in the work. When they think work might not lead to greater efficiency, they won’t go near it, and the minute one of them throws in the towel, the others follow suit. It’s disheartening. But it doesn’t stop me.