As a literacy coach, I work with elementary teachers to enhance their literacy instruction. My goal is to build their self-efficacy, help them effectively teach children to think, read, write, listen, and speak, and improve these teacher’s classroom practice by equipping them with tools and resources they can use as needed. I do this both with one to one coaching and professional development of the whole group. I am fortunate to have a group of excellent educators in my cohort, so my job is always an awesome experience. I am blessed to see these teachers in action. It is inspiring to see the impact these teachers have on the future of our children. As I observe their classroom instruction, I look for ways to add what I have learned from reading research, observing other educators, my personal experience, and from conversations with colleagues to their everyday practice.
One of the biggest ideas (debates) in the reading research world is centered around reading comprehension and how best to teach it. Leading researchers are at odds. The debate is between whole language and phonics instruction. My stance is that children need both language comprehension and word recognition skills to become skilled readers. To me that means to be effective to teach children to read classroom instruction needs to have a healthy balance of systematic phonics instruction, for word recognition skills and vocabulary instruction for language comprehension. I also believe this needs to be done in authentic ways. According to A recent systematic review published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest explains why both methods are important: Phonics, for early readers and for learning to write, as well as whole language instruction, to help children understand complex meanings.
Fortunately, I believe that we can agree that reading comprehension is about making meaning as one reads texts, but just how to get this taught is where the differences come in. Those differences trickled down to the curriculum resources, and supplemental material that classroom teachers use to aid in their instruction. In my work, I do not suggest any changes to the curriculum resources that my teachers have access to as per their schools and school districts, that is not my locus of control, however, my feedback for teachers follows the lines of research and good teacher best practice. I most often give recommendations to help my teacher’s guided reading time and during their whole group instruction.
I have often suggested that teachers choose a good mentor text. I have been trained by professionals who were a part of the Reading First Movement. As a result of that training my love for the use of the read-aloud as a mentor text was revived. As a classroom teacher I used the read-aloud because it is widely accepted as a means of developing vocabulary (Newton, Padak, & Rasinski, 2008). I have since learned that a good read aloud can be used as a mentor text that teachers can use to show students a strong model of how a skill they are learning is supposed to work. A good mentor text can be a supplement to a curriculum that may be lacking or can be an added benefit to your classroom instruction. Feedback to my teachers has included ideas that help them get started. Here are a couple of resources I have found. Mentor Text for Grades k-5 and Teaching with Mentor Texts . Mentor text serves as an important role in instruction, which needs to have a thoughtful and intentional selection process. A mentor text might be a poem, a newspaper article, song lyrics, comic strips, manuals, essays, almost anything (Baker, 2013).
Another of my recommendations centers around guided reading. Again, I don’t propose any one model or structure of guided reading, but I do believe that guided reading has some basic practices that make it meaningful. Readwritethink.org says guided reading gives teachers the opportunity to observe students as they read from texts at their instructional reading levels. Guided reading is subject to many interpretations, but Burkins & Croft (2010) identify these common elements:
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I have reached a milestone in my career and in my life. I have finished all my coursework and have taken and passed my comprehensive exams. “So, now what?” Well, I’m glad you asked. I am now a doctoral candidate, which means I have entered into the phase where I get to hone my skills as a researcher and a writer. I am working on my actual dissertation. “How long does that take?” Thanks, that’s another good question. That depends, to some extent on the college and to a larger extent me, myself, and I.
There are 5 chapters in a dissertation — depending on which college you go to. I will have to work on chapters one – three which introduce my topic, layout the research around my topic and state the methods I want to use to conduct research. I have to propose those to my committee (which I have not chosen yet) before I can do my study- another milestone. Then, I conduct my study and write chapters four and five which discuss the findings and conclusions. This is the final milestone. At this point I defend all 5 chapters and that same committee will tell me it is finished or it needs more work.
This whole process so far has been exhausting, exciting, excruciating, and engaging allllll at the same time. I have learned and am learning so much about myself. I am a self-diagnosed introvert and peopling is a task that at times is very daunting. In previous blog posts I have already stated how far out of my comfort zone I am in my new role as a Literacy Coach. I meet and hold conversations with new people almost every day. It is interesting how so many things in my life just work together.
I am learning to work independently and interdependently. It is a balancing act to say the least. I am fortunate to have a lot of highly skilled, super intelligent people around me at Region 10 Education Service Center. I will admit I don’t always think about and reach out to my “work village”. I am working on that and will do a much better job in the future. I have had an “if you ask for help, they may think you can’t do the job” mentality without even realizing it. Now, I am not saying that I need help, but what I am saying is that I have such a valuable resource in my “work village” that I forget to work with them because I am in autopilot. I have learned that I need to “people with a purpose” (that’s my term, but you can use it).
I have to mention my study group, which is another awesome group of super intellect women who have taught me a lot about myself. If it were not for them, I may not have done any prep for comps at all (and I truly mean that). These women encouraged me, shared their knowledge with me and prayed with me and for me as we prepared for this phase of our studies. I learned that a group that gets together for one cause can be powerful. We have created a new life long bond. They have also helped me learn that peopling is okay.
I have not updated this blog for a few months because so much has been going on. Now that I am back and am in a new phase of this journey, I think it’s time to change my focus. Since I am in the writing phase of my studies and I originally started this blog to write. This will be the last blog post that is titled #doctoralpursuit. Starting in November, I will focus on all things literacy. My new blog will be titled Literacy Pearls. It is my intent to share information that I gain from all the literacy research I will be reading for the next year.
Thank you for reading,
We are at the end of July. The summer is almost over. It has been a whirlwind of excitement, learning, and work. I have been totally out of my comfort zone and have loved every bit of it. As I transition into preparing for the 2019-2020 school year, I consider this a good time to stop and reflect on the pursuit so far.
I have finished my coursework, made it through with only one B, and have met with my advisor to set a plan for Comprehensive Exam preparations. I have made steps towards forming a study group and soon we will met to study. I have been on my new job for 3 months. These months have been a review and crash course in all things literacy kindergarten through 5th grade.
In the past 3 months, I have been able to meld the old job and my experience from that with the new job in the places that fit and have learned new skills that will take me even further. I am learning to work with a team and not in isolation, and at the same time I am responsible for my own group of teachers. There are places where my experiences and studies have been a real benefit and there are places that I have had to take a step back and learn something new.
My summer has been busy with my studies for work and for school and with preparations for facilitating the training of the teachers in my cohort and other teachers that are a part of the READ Grant Reading Academies. Here is what I have learned this summer.
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I am typing this as I look out of my hotel room window. The electricity went out in my apartment building, the funny thing about that is that it is out in my building only and not the whole complex. Anyway, I decided to update you today.
I am nearing the end of the first phase of the process of my doctoral pursuit and I must say that this last stretch has been extremely challenging. I started a new and exciting position. It is wonderful, and challenging, and exciting all at the same time. I have stepped into new territory and am totally out of my comfort zone. I have been introduced to business travel, expense reports and mileage reports along with having to get used to having an administrative assistant to do them for me (everyone should have a Kelly). I can truly say that I love my job and all of the exposure that it brings me. This year (the 15 months of this grant) will definitely be shaping me and getting me ready for the next phase in my life.
I am also taking my last two doc courses this semester (a feat in itself). I go from work (leaving home at 6:30 am) to school every week day (getting home around 9:00 pm) except Friday (on the past two Fridays I attended a study group with my project partners so it may as well have been Monday-Friday). I can say that I have found my groove and have been able to balance everything and have turned in all assignments (except one) on time. I had to miss class one week to travel for work so, last week my life kind of did an overlap. It has been tough overall, but I see the light.
I have entered my 49th year of life and I see it — in the hot flashes and the 10 pounds I have gained — and the fuzzy memory. I know that these side effects are a combination of me being more sedentary in my new job, slower metabolism, and eating more combined with just being exhausted. I am monitoring and adjusting to prepare for my next phase mentally, physically, and spiritually.
I called this blog Cultivating Pearls because of what I know about the process of making Pearls. According to https://willhaniganpearls.com/blogs/news/pearl-cultivation Natural Pearls form when an irritant works its way into an oyster, mussel, or clam until a lustrous pearl is formed. I believe that everything, and I do mean everything that has happened and is going to happen (the irritants and growing pains) in the next year to 18 months is a will be making me the leader that I am called to be.
I am still toying with what will be the future topic of this blog and when I will transition to that new topic. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading.
It's time for an update. I have been in my new role for about a month now. I am learning a lot. It is encouraging and empowering to be around people who are considered to experts in their field. I have already been on my first business trip and my next trip is schedule for the end of next month. In my role as literacy coach I will be able to share my expertise in all things literacy with educators from two of our local school districts. This is ideal, because it brings practice and study to life for me. It helps me further connect what I am learning and studying with what I do daily. I get to live in my passion for teacher education with a much broader audience. Everything I have been doing and learning in the last 3 years has prepared me for this opportunity.
I have already told you that my last two courses are in June. I am trying to mentally prepare for balancing that, my new role, and business travel. This is a very welcomed challenge. I am looking forward to working though all of that plus June is my birthday month, so I am also looking forward to seeing what year 49 has in store for me. I believe big things are going to be happening. July will be equally as challenging because I will prepare for my comprehensive exams and will be looking at that very rough first draft of chapters 1, 2, &, 3 of my dissertations. (I misspelled dissertation the first time, should I be worried? Lol)
When I began working on my doctorate, I made the choice to join organizations that would put me around people who love, live, and study literacy. I joined and began doing presentations and volunteering to peer review papers for publication in their journal and even joined one of their committees. I have attempted to have a paper published in their journal as well (My first rejection). Last year, I ran for one of the organization’s At-Large Board of Director positions at the prompting of one of the board members, but did not win. That same board member encouraged me to try again this year. I am excited to share with you that I won this time. For the next two years I will serve as one of the At-Large Directors on the Board of TALE (Texas Association for Literacy Education) in this role I plan to advocate for my passion for teachers and teacher education.
I have been thinking about what the next stage in my life will look like. I know what I originally set out to do with this degree, but God has moved mightily in my life since I began this pursuit. The possibilities are endless and much further reaching than I could even imaging. God has shown me that my thinking was too small. He has more in store for me. I have been strategically doing things that lead to the goals I have set for myself and as a result, big things truly are happening.
Thank you for reading,
Woooooooooow! 2019 has been a year. I have so much to tell you. Things are really falling into place. I have TWO MORE classes, that’s right; just two more. Both will be in the summer I session—so June will be tough— but nothing I cannot handle. I am soooo encouraged right now. The things I am learning are connecting and so practical. God is so good. I still have lots of work left to do, but I can see the light! I have completed a VERY rough draft of chapters 1,2, & 3 of my dissertation. I will revisit them often between now and August to see how I can make them publish worthy. I may even solicit reviewers to read them for specific and candid feedback. I will dedicate July to organize and study all coursework to prepare for comprehensive exams in the fall semester. After comprehensive exams I will be an Ed.D candidate and officially in the writing phase. My goal is to complete the writing phase in 12 to 18 months. The next steps will be to plan graduation activities.
Guess what? Who am I kidding? I couldn’t keep this a secret if I tried. After 20 years of teaching in Dallas ISD, I am leaving. Starting tomorrow— May 1, 2019— I will be an employee of Region 10 Educational Service Center. This is a move I am very excited about. It is the beginning of my next steps. I love professionally developing and teaching educators and now I can do it for a broader audience (and in conjunction with TEA- Texas Education Agency). In my new role I will be responsible for a caseload of 60 educators and administrators. I will be conducting professional development with them and providing targeted support that is directly aligned with that professional development. This new role gives me the opportunity to live what I have been studying while studying what I am living. Instead of only working with one ISD (Independent School District) I will be working with school districts in the region. I can see how various school districts conduct the business of educating children. I will have access to more teachers in those districts which in turn gives me the opportunity to reach more students and positively impact student academic achievement.
Thank you for reading, I will be in touch soon.
As an instructional specialist, I work with teachers daily. I synthesize what I am learning in coursework to use in daily practice, I continually think of my research topic and how I can make my work and course work meld together. I want to tell the story of educators while being educated myself. I choose to research teacher practices when they are teaching vocabulary because of the demographic of students I work with. I am interested in vocabulary instruction because as a classroom teacher even my best students struggled with vocabulary. I honestly believe that what I see the "highly-effective" educators do quite effortlessly when they teach vocabulary can help every teacher. As a result, I am always watching what the highly effective teacher does.
So, I become teacher-researcher-coach as I work with my teachers. I am observed a few “highly Effective educators. I have trained my teachers on research-based best practices in vocabulary instruction and given them a few suggestions on how to incorporate vocabulary instruction in their school day. I presented them with this question: What would happen if you were intentional with your vocabulary instruction? Since that training, they have answered that question with things like:
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I have not spoken to you this year. Happy New Year to you, lol I have had a lot going on this year and since the last time I updated you. This has been the longest break I have taken since I began this blog in June of 2016. I feel bad about it, but life kinda "got in the way" of my timeline for a bit. Classes got more rigorous as I am getting near the end of my course work. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a long, long, long tunnel, but I see it. I am in two course this semester and have two more to complete which puts me on target to finish summer II which is July. By the end of my coursework, I will have a working draft of chapters 1, 2, & 3 of my dissertation. Then on to comprehensive exams and defending those chapters. Once the "powers that be" (my graduate advisor and a team of professionals from the graduate school) say yes, it's on to my actual research. I then write chapters 4 and 5 and move to where I defend everything (final defense). and finally to the goal, the title Dr. (Ed.D). I am excited and overwhelmed all at the same time- if that is even possible. My goal (which is just that) is completion December 2020.
I have grown and am growing, living, and making connections that will help me with future success. I still feel the inner nudging of the need to make a move and spread my wings career-wise, but have not found that open door, yet. Still I trudge on. I am open and ready once the door is open and am also seeking opportunities for the growth of my leadership skills. I am setting myself up to be the literacy leader I am supposed to be. My words for the next 5 years are "Clear Vision".
Stay tuned for an announcement in the near future.
I am in love with being an adjunct professor. It is fulfilling and rewarding but is also extra which takes a bit more of my time than just being an instructional specialists and doc student. It is not something I am willing to give up. It is pivotal to my future success. I tell people when they ask me: "If I could quit my job and do this full time, I would." As long as I am afforded the opportunity to do this work, I will. I look forward to future opportunities to come from working with pre-service teachers.
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I had the opportunity to be an adjunct professor at Paul Quinn College this fall. It was a big deal to me because teaching has always been something I just knew I would do and now I have the opportunity to do at the college level. What also makes this a big deal is that Paul Quinn College is also where I began my college life. This is me waiting for my panel interview. I was both excited and proud because it felt like I was coming home. For you to truly understand what I mean, you have to know that I did not graduate—at least not from Paul Quinn— but it was where I began to grow. It was where learned some life lessons, gained some life long friends and it was where I lost my voice. Working at Paul Quinn College is like finding my voice again and using that voice to teach young people who are a lot like I was.
As I walked the campus during my first weeks of class I looked at the buildings I attended class in, the grounds I used to run on, and memories came flooding back to me. I remember standing outside this set of doors talking to the guy that I was dating. This is the place where students used to hangout and socialize. He and I were discussing something now I cannot remember what, but I did not agree with him. Before I knew it, he had reached out to hit me and I tried to get away and go inside. I do remember thinking none of these people know how scared I am right now. No one knows that I need help. That was the moment I lost my voice. Now this area is used as a clothing closet to help students get ready for job interviews. Students at Paul Quinn College also have to dress professionally during the school day. This clothing closet helps those students who need more professional clothing as well. I volunteer here for a couple of hours a month so students can get help with professional clothes.
Paul Quinn College is an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) founded in 1872 by African Methodist Episcopal preachers in Austin, Texas for freed slaves and their children. Paul Quinn moved from there to Waco and finally to Dallas. You will see the schools institutional ethos "We over Me" in several areas on the campus as a reminder that we are stronger together no matter what our race, culture, socioeconomic status, or any other quality that makes us unique. Paul Quinn College has always been a small family like institution with a student population anywhere from 300 to 500 hundred students. This small family-like setting was ideal for me when I was a student.
The student ratio at Paul Quinn is about 9:1. Both my classes had less than 5 students in them, but because they are classes students need for certification they were allowed to “make”. These two students are in my Emergent Literacy class. One is a junior and the other is a sophomore. It was hard to conduct some of the engaging types of activities that you can do with a big group but it was easy for them to relax and ask the types of questions they needed to ask. Our sessions were intimate and productive.
There were 4 students in my second class., Reading in the Elementary School. This group was made up of juniors and seniors who are trying to get they course work together so they can being their student teaching. What is interesting about this group is that one of these students is an online only student from our newly established Plano campus which is comprised of students who are doing student internships in some businesses in Plano, Texas. They are taking their courses online. I use a screen sharing software and webcam to record and present the lessons for her and the other students in class. This was the first year that students were able to be in class this way. This group is more vocal and interacted well together.
As I began to prepare to teach my students, I kept in mind, my experience as a college student at Paul Quinn. I understand that just like I had issues and challenges they may also have challenges and issues. I understand that they are trying to find their way in life- just like I was. I have found my way home and so will they. I am here to help them find their way. As I prepared to teach them, I had in mind that more than likely my students would be placed in schools that are in low socioeconomic areas with students who have various needs and deficits like is typical of children who come from poorer areas of the city. I kept in mind the area that Paul Quinn is in. I planned my lectures with all of this in mind. I tried to plan ways for the students to learn what their students should come to them knowing, how to assess to learn what academic level their students are learning on, and gave them practical tips to teach them how to move their students to the next level. We even discussed ways to get parent involvement. I taught each lecture modeling how they would interact with their students, showing them different ways of engaging them, and also telling they how the student brain works so they can consider that when planning their own lessons for their students. This experience has been very rich and fulfilling for me. I know this is what I was meant to do. I look forward to many more opportunities to pour into these young future educators.
Thank you for reading
Okay, it's September (I know, I know) I missed updating you in August. Life got busy and as I often tell you, I struggle with balance (got off track again). I'm taking two of the five courses that I have left in this pursuit and in addition to that I am now an adjunct professor of teacher education at Paul Quinn College, by the way I LOVE it, but with this addition, I have more late nights even still, I continue to press on. Along with my course work, specialist work, and adjunct work, I am also an appointed member of my school districts Racial Equity Advisory Council for the area that I live in. This gives me the opportunity to be the voice for the children in my neighborhood as well as the teachers who work in my neighborhood. I want to use this platform to speak about how to improve the level of instruction that babies in my area are getting. This leads me to what I really want to talk about tonight, teacher efficacy.
Teacher efficacy is the educator’s belief that they can guide their students to success no matter what challenges they come to school with. Teachers who come to work believing that they can positively affect student academic success do what is necessary to achieve that. Collective teacher efficacy is the belief that as a school community, working together all teachers can positively affect student success. This is what creates effective, high performing schools. This can sometimes be the novice educator (I’ve seen and worked with some) quite often though, it’s the veteran educator. The educator who has experienced teaching children from differing backgrounds and challenges. The teacher that is continually working on his or her craft. Here is the real provocation, quite often those teachers don’t work in the areas that need them most – areas with high crime and low socioeconomic status. In my work, I have seen the effects of teachers with poor efficacy. I have seen too often brand-new teachers, and/or poorly trained teachers working with our students who come from low socioeconomic areas. The problem with this is that they are quite often not properly trained to deal with the various needs that these babies come to school with and as a result, performance in those schools is low over all. It is on my mind because I have got to find a way to change this pattern. ACE (accelerating campus excellence) helps, but what happens when those schools still cannot fully staff with good veteran educators, what can we do when the money runs out? What can we do with and for educators and schools in these areas to get and retain veteran educators? Better still, how can we train the educators we have that are willing to work in these areas? These are questions that I am seeking the answers too, because the goal should be and still is, student academic success and we need it to be done equitable.
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Pearl Garden is a doctoral candidate at Texas A&M- Commerce. Follow along as she drops "pearls' of literacy and chronicles her pursuit of her Ed. D in Supervision-Curriculum and Instruction- Elementary Education. Just know that these are the ramblings of a doc student and a lot of what you read is a first draft and will go through some rewrites.