Sacred stories of classroom, school, county, and state : navigating professional knowledge landscapes in the face of mandated reading initiatives
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The purpose of this study was to examine the nature of collaboration among members of a first grade team as they participated in a state mandated reading initiative. The second purpose was to examine how top-down mandates of state reading initiatives and collaboration among team members translated into “secret stories” of classroom instruction for the three focus teachers. The study also considered my role as the campus reading coach, as I attempted to facilitate the translation of the reading initiative to meet the diverse needs of the team members, while navigating issues of power among the campus administration and the first grade team. Qualitative research methods were used to document and describe (a) the interactions and collaboration of the first grade team during grade level reading meetings; (b) the formation of micro-groups due to power issues; (c) literacy practices of the three focus teachers and; (d) the secret stories of members of the first grade team as they navigated the troubled landscape of the second year of the reading initiative. The first grade meetings were observed and documented for five months, as teachers completed the reading initiative modules and attempted to translate those practices in order to complement their existing classroom practices. Each of the three focus first grade teachers was interviewed and recorded during classroom instruction. Interviews with students were also conducted in order to gain the perspective of literacy practices from a child’s point of view. Data for the study included field notes from observations, student and teacher interviews, digital images of student work and classroom texts, and digital video and audio recordings of interviews and classroom instruction. The findings of the study indicate that teachers translated staff development practices in accordance with their existing beliefs and tended to gravitate toward and collaborate with those who shared common pedagogical beliefs. The role of the reading coach was best served when the coaching protocols were transparent to all team members. The study revealed the inevitability of conflict in an atmosphere of collaboration as well as the notion that teachers are the true curriculum makers regardless of the initiative.