Just before the winter holidays I had the opportunity to hear Donalyn Miller speak. There are so many reasons I enjoyed my day - she is a classroom teacher, right now, she was in her classroom with her students the day before she was with us - she is a Texan with just enough of an accent to remind me of my home state but not so much that it drives me nutty - she sings the praises of twitter and online networks - she loves books and reading and teaching.
Donalyn is highly reflective, a quality I believe to be critical for educators. She asks herself why about everything she does. If there isn't a good reason for doing it, she stops. Sounds simple but it truly brilliant.
She's also highly reflective about her students. If a child is not reading during their independent reading time, she spends a few days observing closely. She looks for why the student is not reading and what they are doing instead. Then she is able to talk with them and work with them to create a plan for reading. She watches what students are reading in order to help them find new books, books similar and books that will stretch them.
While the basics of Donalyn's book, The Book Whisperer, should be in place in classrooms everywhere, they aren't. Sadly. However, even if all classrooms allowed book choice and instituted significant amounts of independent reading time at school there would still be much to learn from Donalyn. I just finished rereading The Book Whisperer and found myself reflecting on ways we use our time in my classroom and my expectations for my first graders. It's certainly got me thinking.