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Equity Resources, Podcast Articles   |   Feb 25, 2018

Engagement, excellence, & equity: A conversation with Regie Routman

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Engagement, excellence, & equity: A conversation with Regie Routman

By Angela Watson

This week on Truth for Teachers: Regie Routman on strategies to promote student engagement, examples of equity in the classroom, and achieving excellence. 

Getting to interview Regie Routman for my Truth for Teachers podcast is like a tennis player getting to interview Serena Williams. Regie is probably among the top five people who have influenced my teaching practice and philosophy. She’s now had over 40 years of experience teaching, coaching, and leading in diverse schools across the United States and Canada, and has been publishing books since 1988.

Her current work — and check this out, it’s so cool — involves weeklong school residencies where she does daily demonstration teaching in K-6 classrooms, coaches teachers and principals, and facilitates ongoing professional conversations — all with the goal of creating whole school change in reading and writing.

I’m going to let you listen in on this interview now right at the part where I’m telling her about when I first encountered her work. You can also read some highlights from the interview below.

Regie Routman on strategies to promote student engagement, examples of equity in the classroom, and achieving excellence. 

Click PLAY in the podcast player below to listen to my conversation with Regie,

or use the downward arrow button to get the MP3 and listen later.

Key take-aways for engagement

  • Put students first, above standards or passing a test, and stay true to the right, best, most principled practices for teaching and learning.
  • “After 45 years of teaching almost exclusively in schools that are underperforming, whole-school achievement requires a thriving culture.”
  • An authentic culture in a building — which includes how everyone is treated, from the custodian to the secretary — sets the tone for a high-achieving school. “I have never seen a high achieving school where there is a lack of authenticity.”
  • For students themselves to be engaged in their learning, the school culture needs to be one of engaging both hearts and minds and establishing a safe and joyful environment where everyone’s voice is heard.
  • Share your own stories with students, and encourage them to share their experiences, their histories, their backgrounds. Help them find their passion and use that to engage them in their learning.
  • Celebrate a child’s strengths: Acknowledge what he can do, not the things he hasn’t learned to do yet.
  • Don’t be afraid to abandon something that’s not working! Show students it’s okay to mess up and that you can move beyond it.

Key take-aways for equity

  • Providing resources, especially in schools where achievement is low, cannot take the place of providing a challenging and viable curriculum.
  • A lot of the idea behind equity is having high expectations of every student. Programs that lower expectations and focus only on skills in isolation are “doing a terrible disservice” to those students who aren’t being challenged and expected to do more than just the basics.
  • There’s only a small percentage of students who need the isolated teaching of skills. We do a disservice to students who don’t need that kind of instruction because they “never get to the good stuff.” If you need to teach skills “in isolation,” do it using a text you’ve written together as a class that relates to the classroom or is connected to the unit of study.
  • “I’m just dedicated to doing whatever I can as one individual to make it possible for all of our students to be successful as learners … we have to assume every child is intelligent.”
  • Get rid of the leveled books in the classroom so students learn to be self-determining, and learn how to self-monitor so they choose books that are both interesting and accessible to them.

Key take-aways for excellence

  • We need to develop and sustain what John Hattie calls “collaborative expertise.”
  • Professional learning that’s going on weekly, a leadership team, monthly meetings in vertical teams.
  • Analyzing student work, seeing what’s going well and what isn’t. And this is done without placing blame because again, they’re not “my students,” they’re “our students.”
  • “Expert teaching cannot be downloaded.”
  • Curriculum isn’t just about the content but has to be connected to the real world, to what’s going on. Find articles about people who are problem solvers. Share them with your students and ask them, “What does this mean for your life? What could you do?”
  • Pursue joy in learning by finding balance between work and the other aspects of your life. “It’s so important to be authentic and to have your own life, because if you don’t, then you’re not happy to be in that classroom … when you come into the classroom joyful, that makes a huge difference.”

I love Regie’s takeaway truth: Joy is a necessity that all kids can learn. You can go to stenhouse.com/literacyessentials to get free resources related to Regie’s new book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for all learners. I hope you’ll check it out!

Joy is a necessity that ALL kids can learn: @RegieRoutman on engagement, equity, & excellence Click To Tweet
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Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela is a National Board Certified educator with 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach. She started this website in 2003, and now serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Truth for Teachers...
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  1. I loved listening to this podcast on my way home today! This definitely inspires me to be an authentic educator. The part that was most eye-opening was when Regie shared her experience of abandoning the lesson because she could tell that students were not engaged. Wow! How many times do we, as teachers, force ourselves to continue to teach a lesson even though the students are clearly not engaged?

  2. Best podcast ever!!!
    I love to listen to this podcast. It´s educational and very very helpful. Her guests are excellent..It´s like a shinny light in the end of the tunnel for sure. It gives me hope to try again, to give teaching and myself one more chance.
    Thank you, Angela. You´re doing an amazing job.

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