5 Questions with… Amy Brennan

Each week, the #G2Great community meets on Thursdays from 8:30-9:30 pm EST to discuss ways to improve literacy instruction and intervention in our schools. The group continues the discussion on Voxer, and I continually learn so much from the group. One of the Co-Moderators of the chat is Amy Brennan, who brings a leader’s voice dedicated to improving reading and writing for students. I am honored to be included in the #G2Great community each week, and we are truly honored to have Amy join us this week to share her insight.
5 Questions with… Amy Brennan
1. What do you most want your students to take with them from your classroom, school or district?
Recently I moved from the role of a literacy coach to that of a director of elementary education.  Through this transition my perspective is on a broader level as an educator, across subject areas, across classrooms, across buildings and across grade levels.  Teaching and learning is the heart of instruction, this is where we connect with students and make the most difference to students. With this in mind I have to acknowledge that there is so much content for students to “learn” in school and the real goal is to be able learns skills and  apply them in other contexts.  I believe the one thing, the most important thing is to teach students is to think.  As educators we too need to always be thinking and learning.  We need to model this work for our students everyday, all day. This is the one thing that I want for students to take with them when they leave school.  Go into the world…thinking.  Always asking questions, always wondering, and always applying independent thought to all situations.  This is where we change things.  This is where students grow into the citizens we need them to be, who are equipped to make decisions for the world. So for all learners, children and adults alike I most want them to take with them the ability to think, to think critically, to think for themselves and more importantly to think about their thinking.  This is the one thing that has the potential to make the greatest impact in our world.
2.  What are the most rewarding and/or the most frustrating aspects of education?
Rewarding, that is the easy one.  Kids.  No matter what could be going on, when you look a child, adolescent or teenager in the eye…when you see their smile.  That is it.  The most rewarding thing in education.  When you have the honor of leaning back and watching them inquire and learn.  That is it.  No other field can offer this.
Frustrating, I could mention a lot here.  What I find most frustrating is the adults in this world who do not do the one thing I hope all kids can do when they leave school.  Think.  If we could all be more thoughtful independent thinkers and apply that to all scenarios it would alleviate so many things that frustrate or impede educating all of our students.
3. What advice would you give to young teachers?
Remember why you became a teacher.  Look at the whole child.  Always remember that each child is someone’s child.  Always stay true to what you value and invite others to understand your why.  They key in everything is understanding the why and always, always to think.  Remember to ask why not when someone tells you it cannot be done.  Lastly, find your people and learn together.  Collective learning is how we grow.  Always learn and keep on growing.
4. What has influenced your career the most?
Truthfully my experiences with Teachers College Reading and Writing Project have laid such a strong foundation for me. I previously worked in a school as a literacy coach that was an affiliate school to TCRWP and I received so much professional development through the project, in my district, at institutes, at conferences. I think it is the larger community of educators that makes the difference for me, that collective learning that you benefit from in learning from an organization such as TCRWP.  As an added layer, being a connected educator has really enhanced my career over the last few years and has strengthened and broadened the collective learning experiences that I engage in. My professional learning network and especially my #G2Great colleagues have really influenced my career most recently, these are the my people, the people I learn with on a regular basis.  Overall, it I had to sum it up, collaboration and learning in the company of others is really what has influenced my career the most.
5. As an educator, what are you currently focused on?
As an educator I am currently focused on adult learning and the direct impact that has on student learning. Years back I thought of myself as a researcher, more recently I have come to realize that I am passionate about learning.  I spend a lot of my time researching about learning, so it looks and feels like I am a researcher and really what it is really all about is the learning. Over the summer I met many teachers and shared in learning with them, I look forward to building on this work This year is a year of learning for me as I grow professionally and I find that invigorating.  I am focused on taking all I know about great literacy instruction as well as great social studies instruction and bridge those to other curriculum areas such as math and science.
Amy Brennan is a Director of Elementary Education. She is an engaged reader and aspiring writer, as well as the #G2Great and #SocSt21 chats. Amy is a former Literacy Coach and Reading Specialist. During the 2013-­2014 school year Amy collaborated with 6th grade teacher Chris Gatz and co-­authors Maggie Beattie Roberts and Emily Strang Campbell to pilot a unit for the book Research Based Information Writing from Lucy Calkins’ series Units of Study in Opinion, Information and Narrative Writing Grade 6. In September 2014, Amy was recognized by Riverhead Central School District as The Distinguished Elementary Educator of the Year. Amy enjoys sharing ideas and learning with students and adults alike, as such she has lead numerous collegial circles and professional development sessions related to literacy and learning. Amy blogs at brennanamy.wordpress.com.

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