Will Robotic Mandates End Responsive Teaching?

As an education blogger, I have a long, never-ending list of things I can’t wait to share with readers, all about responsive, best practice teaching.  Some are things that teachers at my own school are currently trying out, some are tips and advice I want to pass along to you from my own learning and experience.  There is just SO MUCH to explore in the world of literacy!

Blogging rules dictate that  I’m supposed to pay attention to something called “search engine optimization.”  Simply put, it’s a term that means I’m supposed to do all kinds of keyword plugging according to trending topics in order to get more readers, based on what Google predicts to be popular in a given week.  In other words, robotic content. I put zero time into that, because it feels very disingenuous to me.  I’m just here to provide support, regardless of how many clicks I get. 

Because even if I help just ONE person, I’m happy.  

I’m not here for the masses.  I’m here for the few that truly, truly want to grow as educators.  And because you’ve found your way to this blog,  that, my friend, is YOU!   

This is why you’ll never see me develop products for TPT.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot there that’s super helpful.  I myself have spent so much on that site over the years, I’m certain my husband would divorce me if he had any idea.  But selling products is not what I’m here for.

What I’m here for is to serve others.  To coach them through their difficult literacy conundrums.  To be the cheerleader every teacher needs and deserves.  To help think through challenging instructional puzzles in order to keep responsive teaching front and center.

To be your thought partner so you don’t have to do it alone.  

So there’s no need for printables.  Dreaming up downloads of things just to make a quick buck is NOT what I’m about.  (Have you seen the about-face so many teacherpreneurs on TPT have done? They’ve completely changed philosophies in order to keep the cash stream flowing. So unethical.)

This post is not to teach you a single thing.  I don’t care that the title is too long for Google to approve of, I don’t care that there are no keywords in it to help the algorithm push it in front of people.  Because YOUR eyes are on it, and that is all that matters.

This post isn’t a teaching post.  It’s a post to rally you, to cheer you on. 


Because it’s going to get very, very rocky in literacy.  

My state, most likely yours too, is in the midst of some very abrupt and very sweeping changes to literacy instruction.  They won’t all be bad, but they will be a lot.  And we’ll ALL have to make some very hard decisions about what matters most as we figure out how to juggle it all.

So, as my own state and district embark on this era of swift, untested change, I’m thinking hard about what will be non-negotiable for me as an educator.  I’m thinking about what I will steadfastly hold onto and not give up, for myself or for my school–and most of all–for students.  

Here’s what I’ll never let go of for kids:

  • Joy for reading.  I will always bring in incredible books to share with kids, and I will always work hard to help them find books that speak to them, that they can get lost in.
  • Time for reading.  Transition times and lessons themselves might have to be even tighter.  Lessons might even have to be broken up into two days instead of one.  But I will NOT stand in the way of kids reading for volume, stamina, and most of all, enjoyment.    
  • Read alouds for pure enjoyment and interactive read alouds to build all manner of critical thinking.  Just about anything can be taught through read alouds!
  • Writing.  Real writing, for a decent chunk of time, where choice and voice is paramount.  
  • Natural embedding of skill work, like grammar, conventions, and phonics.  Teaching in isolation doesn’t work.  Incorporating this work into teacher models and of course kids’ own, authentic work is how transfer happens.  
  • Small group work.  And if I end up with a curriculum that doesn’t allow it?  That’s when I’ll shut my door and do what I know is best.  No class is completely homogeneous.  They never have been and never will be.  And that means no one-size-fits-all teacher manual will cut it.  My job will always remain to find each child’s ZPD, teach into it, and push them to reach their fullest potential.  That’s what responsive teaching is.  
  • Shared reading and writing.  These are truly bridges to independent work, and are the models our kids so desperately need in order to take on high levels of work for themselves.  Shared experiences show kids the way.  
  • Book conversations.  If we want kids to grow their thinking, a supportive and collaborative conversation is always the way to do it.  Kids need the practice of working with others, sharing ideas, and even disputing each other in respectful, productive ways.  In this day and age now more than ever.  

All of these practices are strong balanced literacy practices I’ll never abandon–and yes, they are ALL part of balanced literacy.  I’ve seen the enormous benefits of these practices for almost 25 years in the field.  Not to mention learned about the benefits of this work from hundreds of professional books and countless conferences over the last almost 30 years.  

Will it be difficult to manage the time constraints that a new mandated curriculum will present me with?  Yes.  Extremely.  So much so, that it would be a whole lot easier to just throw my hands up and say “I give up; it can’t be done,” and follow the manual like a robot.  That would be So. Much.  Easier.  

But I refuse do that.  

Nearly thirty years ago, I entered this profession to serve as an advocate, guide, and educator for children.  Because children don’t have a voice.  No seat at the table.  If I give in now, when it matters most for kids–responsive, strong teaching– I’d essentially be turning my back on them. 

So I’m going to be flexible. I’ll need to rework schedules, probably many times over, in order to keep what matters most while also making room for what’s mandated.  I’ll have to be extra creative about concept integration.  And I’ll have to learn that new curriculum extremely quickly, so I can figure out how to streamline it and how to use it in a way that’s responsive to student needs.  Because I’ll never, ever be that teacher who blindly turns the pages according to the day of the week in a curriculum that was written for the masses, and not my students.   And I won’t want my teachers to follow that path, either. 

So no, I will not allow robotic mandates replace responsive, best practice teaching. I’ll just find a way to weave it in.  

My job will remain the same as it’s always been.  To steadfastly do what’s best for kids, and to be responsive–not robotic–in my teaching.  And to continue to help other educators do the same.  It can be done.  It has to be done.  

Are you with me?  If you are, I stand beside you!

If you need a thinking partner to help you navigate the big changes in your school while  maintaining strong, responsive instruction that’s best for kids, reach out, or join my private FB group.  I’m here for you!

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Related posts:  Teach the Reader, Not Just Reading, What Balanced Literacy Really Means, What SOR Tells Us to Do That’s Completely Wrong, Kids are Readers, Not Letters, Getting to Know Your Readers and Writers to Save Time Later

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