Lessons Learned While on the Road with Landmark Outreach
By Adam Hickey, Ed.M, M.S. Ed.
The Landmark School Outreach Program has a long and storied history of extending Landmark School’s influence beyond the campuses of Manchester and Prides Crossing. Although charged through its mission to empower children and adolescents with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD) by offering their teachers a program of applied research and professional development, more and more we are intersecting with general educators, who are committed to differentiating their instruction to meet the needs of all students in their classrooms.
Landmark Outreach provides consulting, graduate courses, seminars, and online learning to help educators finesse their own instructional approaches. To that end we reject delivering pre-packaged programs or telling teachers to instruct a particular way; instead, we challenge teachers to think differently about language instruction for all students. We ask teachers to consider ways to incorporate evidence-based instruction into their daily practice. Moreover, we embrace the paradigm of practice itself. We want to create a partnership with schools and gain traction over time. Practice is essential to a teacher’s success. As educational psychologist, Dr. Peter Doolittle states, “We all start as novices. Everything we do is an approximation of sophistication. We should expect it to change over time. We need to process our life immediately and repeatedly.” We challenge teachers to see their work with children as an approximation of sophistication and embrace opportunities to play with the erudition we present.
In the context of the school consult model, creating a change in instructional practices works best from a bottom-up approach. We have found that partnering with teachers who are supported by an administrative team creates a foundation upon which remodeling can occur. We respect the culture of each school we work with and honor their challenges while offering instructional approaches grounded in both theory and forty-plus years of Landmark School’s experience.
Each time I drive away from a consultation where I have presented to faculty, strategized with an administrative team, or debriefed with a teacher after observing her class, I am struck by the passion, dedication, and energy each educator brings to her work. While On the Road, I am fortunate to work with those who Jack Kerouac embraced, “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
In spite of the negative reports about the state of education presented in the papers or heard in the media, the teachers, instructional leadership teams, and administrators who I intersect with are visionaries; they think purposefully, keep their students at the forefront of their decision-making lens, and implement approaches that will meet their students’ needs even when those perspectives challenge their previous beliefs. Teachers actively take their prior knowledge and wrap their arms around the thinking-about-teaching that Landmark Outreach presents, and consequently, we all benefit from the embrace.