Saturday, October 18, 2014

“Aha” Moments, Surprises and Questions From Three Years in LTI

By Marie Clevering

I joined Literacy Teachers Initiative three years ago. Honestly, with a switch to a different school, a new curriculum and a new grade to teach, and with starting a family, I didn’t know how long I’d last. But whatever preconceptions I had going in, I got hooked quick, and am still involved today!

         LTI is a chance for the teachers to tell our stories, and to share our unique insights. We see students thrive and we see them struggle. We know there are ways to make every student successful; we just have to find the right methods. Action research within the LTI community is a powerful tool to revitalize and refine our teaching strategies. This is why even experienced teachers with a lot on our plates are excited to participate.

From being in the program for there years, I have gained knowledge that I never would have gained elsewhere. Below are some “aha” moments, surprises, and questions from my time with LTI thus far.

“Aha” Moments!

My first action research project with LTI was all about conferencing.  Specifically, “How can conferencing help my students’ comprehension and metacognitive strategies in my book clubs and independent reading?”

I loved conferencing with my students to begin with, and felt confident that I was good at it. I thought my research would validate my impressions.

         My first “aha” moment was that I needed to listen more in conferences, especially with lower-performing students.

         During my research, I applied an increased level of critical reflection and focused closely on who was saying what during each conference. I began to realize that I was taking a leadership role in the conferences more than I had thought. I want my conferences to be student-led, and learned I needed to be more patient, giving students (especially lower-performing students) time to think through difficult topics before I offered assistance.

         Upon further reflection, I came to my second “aha” moment. I learned that even a format that was working well for me could be dramatically improved, to great effect for my students!

We must never plateau as teachers. Action research is a great way for me to keep pushing myself forward.


”How do you have time to do all that extra work?”

This is what people often ask when I talk about my action research through LTI. This sort of question was forefront in my mind when I began my involvement in the program as well.

My first surprise was that working with LTI was not another “thing to do”, but an uplifting experience that helped every aspect of my teaching.

As part of LTI, I get to bounce ideas off of smart, inquisitive, solution-orientated teachers. LTI helps solve problems I did not even know I had, and breaks roadblocks that would otherwise likely cause extended frustration. And while participation often brings out more questions, it also brings out more energy to address these questions by making me feel more conscious and empowered as a teacher.

My second surprise was that I can and should ask the “bigger questions” in education that are sometime seen as off-limits to teachers (only permitted to be asked by specialists).

Administrators and policy makers are not the only ones who should be thinking about the “hows” and “whys” of teaching beyond the day-to-day. One of the most empowering things I realized from LTI (and the action research component in particular) is that I can and should think broader and deeper about what is going on in the classroom. By critically reflecting on my teaching, and by challenging myself to come up with solutions (that may or may not work), I am engaging in a process that enriches me as a teacher, and my students benefit as a result.


         I know that great teachers are always improving, and so I always seek to improve my teaching. My first question, as always, is how?

This year, I’m looking at quantitative and qualitative data over a work habits rubric. Specifically, “Can a work habits rubric with an emphasis on reflection and literary character study improve students self motivation?”

         That’s the question I set out with, but I know that as I conduct by research, more and more questions will arise. I also know that the LTI community will be right there with me as I work towards better and better solutions for whatever I find!

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