Kathy Collins works in schools and presents in conferences all over the world to support teachers in developing high-quality, effective literacy instruction in the early childhood settings through middle school. She is the co-author, along with Janine Bempechat of ‘Not This But That: No More Mindless Homework’ (Heinemann, 2017). She co-authored, with Matt Glover, ‘I AmReading: Nurture Meaning-Making and Joyful Engagement with Texts‘ (Heinemann, 2015). Kathy’s other books include ‘Reading for Real: Teach Children to Read With Power, Intention, and Joy in K-3 Classrooms’ (Stenhouse, 2008) and ‘Growing Readers: Units of Study in Primary Classrooms’ (Stenhouse, 2004). Kathy has worked closely with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, and she taught in Brooklyn, New York. Kathy and her family live in Durham, New Hampshire.
Can you, please, introduce yourself?
I’m from the US, I live in New Hampshire. I was a teacher in New York City and I wrote a couple of books. That’s kind of how I became a consultant and started getting hired by schools. My husband is a teacher. He teaches middle school math. We have two kids and a dog I love. Half of my work is in international schools and half of my work is in the US. One of the things I love about international schools is that the teachers come from so many backgrounds and there’s just so many opportunities to learn from each other. It’s so diverse.
Tell us more about your visit at AAS? What was the Chapters International Workshop all about?
The workshop that just took place at AAS was about infusing our literacy work with the spirit of inquiry. Our discussions were focused on helping students develop independence and agency as readers and writers, but mostly readers. There were teachers from this school and teachers from eight other schools. A teacher from Ethiopia and teachers from other European countries came to Sofia to attend this conference. During the workshop I would share information and everyone would take this information and think about it in the context of their schools. We were so fortunate to get to go to classrooms and work with students from AAS. The participants had the chance to see some of the practices in action. We didn’t know that we were going to demonstrate and everybody was so willing to accommodate this practical part in the schedule. The teachers at AAS are so flexible.
Why should international teachers participate in such workshops?
An important thing about a workshop like this one: it’s really hard for teachers to be outside the classroom. A lot of teachers say that it’s harder to be out of the classroom than in. It is a lot of work to not be in school. One might say, ‘Well, why do you do it?’ or ‘Why do we do this?’ I might be leading the presentation, but teachers from all these different schools and backgrounds are sharing all of the different things they do and everybody gets richer. We all go back to our settings, having grown in our craft. It’s so important to grow.
How did the participants benefit from the workshop?
Teachers come away with new ideas about their teaching practice from listening to each other. They learn about what the research is saying. Then, being on site at a school is another huge benefit. We could do all of this at a hotel conference room, but being on site at a school is so valuable for teachers. It gives teachers ideas about their environment, about how to set up a classroom and how to work with kids. When you teach you are often by yourself in the classroom, so these opportunities to interact with other educators are so important.