The Right Tools

This weekend in Minnesota was unseasonably warm for the beginning of March. Keep in mind that means temps in the low 50s. But anytime we hit 50 degrees after a long winter, everyone flocks to be outside. I would imagine people in the warm weather states would be bundling up and shaking their heads at us. I saw motorcycles, people jogging in shorts, jeeps with the tops open, and more outside activities in 2 days than in the last 4 months.

To celebrate the “nice” weather I took my daughter, MarLee, and her friend to practice riding their bikes. MarLee (5) got a new bike for Christmas and was excited to ride it. She quickly found out her old, smaller bike was more comfortable and easier to ride. This started me thinking about the tools and strategies we use for students in school.

MarLee was able to ride her new bike, and by the time we packed up for home it was the bike she preferred. It’s faster and looks much better than her old hand-me-down bike. The old tool (bike) was the one she had confidence in, and it took that review to move on to the next step.

How often are we using the wrong tools for our students and watching them reach a level of frustration that cuts off learning? Most reading specialists I know will say, confidence is the number one thing our students need to make breakthroughs in fluency. Just like MarLee riding her bike, the right tools and some confidence can make all the difference for our learners.

It is also a good reminder that our old tools shouldn’t automatically be thrown out for the new tools (for more reading on those difficult conversations and culture shifts, I would strongly suggest Brad Gustafson’s blog). However, we should have open discussions and evidence-based reality about what makes a positive impact for our students. Our staff recently started exploring new tools through the PLC 2.0 toolkit that we will use to answer the question of what makes the biggest impact for our students. The Right Tools can make all the difference!