Last week I had the privileged of observing Christy Rush-Levine with her eighth grade language arts classes. Deb Gaby, the reading coach in my district, along with two middle school teachers went with me to check out Christy’s approach to remediation. At the heart of her work is reading and writing workshop. I began a list a few moments after entering her classroom and continued to add to it over the course of our time together. I think the best way for you to get a glimpse of my experience is through this list.
- Intentional. Every minute of class is purposeful. Her classroom is designed with the intent to sway readers. Ideas connect.
- Thoughtful. She considers the heart of the reader. She considers students interests. She makes people feel valued. In less than 24 hours, Christy went from stranger to friend for the three educators who came with me. She notices and remembers small details. Christy knows the power of caring.
- Quiet. She is bold in a quiet way. Sometimes I think this is the best way to be bold.
- Calm. She’s not rattled. She takes the time to be reflective and chooses to respond with grace and peace.
- Believing everyone can learn to enjoy reading. She wasn’t behind her computer. She talked with readers. We went to the bookstore and she picked up books, saying, “I’ve been wanting to add this to our library.” Her room is a collection of inspiration to read and write. I loved finding the hidden treasures as I looked and looked again.
- Specific. Her feedback is specific. Her instruction is specific. Christy doesn’t speak in generalities, instead she strives for specificity.
- A role model. She shares her reading life so her students know how to be readers. She shares her writing life so her students know how to be writers.
- A mentor. She is trusted by students and colleagues to guide and lead when it comes to literacy instruction.
- Knowledgeable. Christy studies reading and writing workshop. She attends professional development. She reads blogs. She talks with other educators. She reads and writes herself. In addition, she reflects on her practice. She is constantly questioning and growing as a teacher of readers and writers.
- Responsive. Christy teaches people, not texts, not skills. People. The reason she is so successful is because she responds to individual needs and preferences.
- Kind. She extends goodwill, thinking the best of people.
- Reflective. Christy thinks about her practices. She thinks about her students’ needs. She considers what to do next and what to do differently. Constantly.
- Patient. Christie waits patiently. She gives kids time to respond. She trusts her core beliefs and workshop teaching. She believes kids will grow as readers and writers, but she knows it takes time.