Being “Inspired” to Hold on to New Learning

Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, 2019 CCIRA Featured Speakers

We are always looking for ways to push our thinking and outgrow our best ideas and we find attending powerful and inspiring conferences such as CCIRA to be transformational. Connecting with others dedicated to sound literacy education and soaking up the positive energy of the event buoys us, however, sometimes it is a challenge for us to hold onto this energy once we are back home facing long to-do lists or on the road for extended engagements.

If you’re like us, we imagine that you might struggle with this, too, which leaves us all wondering how we can translate the energy and force of an inspiring conference into our daily lives. How do we maintain the momentum and energy of learning alongside so many intelligent, creative, and dedicated educators when the stove just broke, our son has a school project due, and the dog just ate a Lego?

Making substantive, long term change can be challenging but, if you are intentional, you can succeed. We have six strategies to help you (and us) maintain your CCIRA conference energy and focus, once you travel home with plans to apply your most important learning.

  1.  Write about what you learn.

Whether you blog or reflect in a paper journal, writing about what you have learned will bring you clarity. Thinking on paper will help you gain insight into your new learning and show you your next steps along a path to translating this learning into habituated practice.

     2.   Set up a “tripwire”.

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Sometimes the trickiest part of adopting or adapting new ideas is simply remembering to do them. In our busiest moments, our muscle memory kicks in and we tend to do what is automatic for us. Until new practices become habituated, it takes conscious attention to include them in our instruction. So, if you want to remember to make some particular change in your practice, give yourself a “tripwire”–a physical reminder to do something differently. For example, if you want to remember to prompt differently during guided reading, put stickers, sticky notes, or a even tattoo within the range of your vision to remind you to use the new language during the business of guided reading.

    3.   Find a partner.



Whether you are changing your diet, your reading habits, or your instructional practice, a journey of change and growth is always more enjoyable (and successful) with a travel companion. Find someone who is interested in your instructional destination, get connected, and develop a plan together. In today’s digital world, your learning buddy doesn’t even have to live near you–he or she could live anywhere in the world. Make a point during CCIRA to not only discover new ideas, but to find learning collaborators who can share your commitment to change.

    4. Video or audio tape yourself.



This is not a strategy for the faint-of-heart, but once you discover the ways that recording your instruction provides you powerful insights for transforming your work, you will adopt this self-reflecting tool as a regular part of your professional development. It is easier than you think, so no need to overcomplicate things! Your classroom doesn’t have to be perfect; you don’t need a fancy camera, and you don’t need to wait until the schedule is perfect. Your subconscious will always give you a reason (excuse) not to record yourself. Tell your subconscious, “Thank you for sharing; this is going to be fine” and then get your camera out and start rolling. Seriously.

    5.  Find a coach.



Finding a critical friend can elevate your practice in powerful ways! It is common to miss the obvious when we look at ourselves. Oftentimes, substantive change requires a colleague looking at our practice and giving us feedback to help us shift. We challenge you to invite a coach or colleague to watch you implement your new learning and offer you insights into what might make your efforts even more successful.

CCIRA will offer you a wealth of connections and new insights, but these require your commitment to sustaining them. As Cornelius Minor so wisely states, “When you gain new insight, it is really important to change your life to match your new understanding. To choose not to change is to embrace ignorance.” So, once we know the change we want to adopt, we are obligated to ourselves (and to our students) to be intentional about being true to ourselves.

We can’t wait to see you in Colorado to share in your insight and enjoy your energy!

About the Authors

Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris are the writers and thinkers behind Burkins & Yaris—Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience and made them thought leaders in the field of literacy instruction.

In their role as literacy consultants, Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris work closely with schools and districts, facilitating staff development, conducting in-class demonstrations, and developing curriculum. Kim Yaris is the founder of Literacy Builders and spends more than 100 days per year consulting in schools. Jan Burkins, founder of Literacyhead,  has authored and co-authored several books, including IRA’s bestseller, Preventing Misguided Reading.

Jan and Kim’s first book together, Reading Wellness (Stenhouse, 2014), shares field-tested, practical lessons designed to meet the rigorous demands of the Common Core while increasing joy in classrooms. With more than 40 combined years of experience in school districts, Jan and Kim’s work is steeped in literacy research but both have the heart of a practitioner.  They truly understand what teachers need to know in order to improve literacy instruction.


Author: CCIRAblog

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