In the Epilogue November says: “…these stories demonstrate that we are experiencing an essential change in the culture of teaching and learning. When students are given the opportunity to have purpose and ownership in their work, we see amazing things happen with the quality of their learning experiences and outcomes.” (p. 89)
“Hmmm…,” I thought as I read (and reread) these words. Somehow that part about ownership sounded familiar, an idea I came to embrace many years ago when I was first introduced to writing workshop from such literary giants as Nancie Atwell, Donald Graves, and Lucy Calkins. I’m sure he said it in different ways in many instances, but in the August, 1993 issue of Primary Voices K-6, Donald Graves said, “…children need to have a sense of ownership about their writing, to feel in control of their subjects, not to write in response to topics I give them.” He goes on to talk about the importance of teachers modeling for students what it is they are asking of them. He challenges teachers to look closely at their own literacy. He says, “Children need to hang around a teacher who is asking bigger questions of herself than she is asking of them.”
Aren’t these the same challenges Alan November is putting forth? It seems that we have heard of the importance of ownership, purpose, and collaboration before, but have we as educators really made that shift? Some of us may have, at least in certain areas, but I believe the culture of education as a whole is still one of imparting to students the knowledge we feel they will need. So while we are still seeking to truly experience that needed change in the culture of teaching, the technological tools available to us should help to make that happen. But we as teachers need to work with our students to learn how to ask the important questions and use the new tools available to us in ways that will help ensure the success of that essential change. I think that education will always be evolving, just as we as teachers must continue to grow.
Thanks to everyone who shared their thinking about this book and helped me continue to grow.