I have some staunch book haters this year. Some kids who really hate reading. Some of them hate writing as well. And not just in a “7th grade trying to be cool” kind of way, but in a deep-seated notion that rules their decisions, their actions, and their days. They hate reading. And they are telling me loudly.
They are pushing me to think about what I do in our classroom. How I try to wrap them up in the excitement, how my own relentless quest to find that perfect book along with them is one that deserves the time it gets. That the very act of loving reading (or writing or math or science) is something that we must find the time to cultivate in our schools. Even when I feel the pressure of the year and the deadlines looming over me. Because when they hate reading (or insert whatever school related subject here) then it just doesn’t matter what strategies I try to teach them.
When they hate reading then it just doesn’t matter that I am trying to teach them how to think deeper about text.
It just doesn’t matter that I am trying to teach them to find the signposts.
It just doesn’t matter that I am trying to teach them how to write about their thoughts. How to access harder texts. How to understand text features or write a summary. How to analyze rather than paraphrase.
When they hate reading then that is all they can think about. They refuse to access the skills that they need to practice because everything we do is attached to something to something they hate.
And I get it, why would you want to do more with something you despise?
So when they hate reading we must attack that first. Not the strategies, not the skills, but the emotion that is attached to everything we are trying to do. We must dig and dig and dig to find out why. And we must ask, and we must talk, and we must give them a chance to change their mind, if even just in the slightest way, as we create classrooms that are run on a culture of love for our subject, rather than a need to cover curriculum.
We can assume that they hate it because it is hard. We can assume that they hate it because they find it boring. That they hate it because they have to sit still, because they cannot focus, because they would rather be doing so many other things. But we won’t know until we ask. We wont know until we acknowledge the hatred or whatever emotion they carry so that we can do something about it.
Too often we barrel on, hoping that within our teaching something magical will happen. Yet within our race to teach to the standards, to explore the strategies, to cover, cover, cover, we cannot forget to develop the love, develop the relationship that students need to have with what we teach so that can become invested, even if just a little bit.
So when they hate reading, or whatever other thing they loudly proclaim to hate, don’t just teach. Listen. Ask. And then do something about it. And not just by yourself, but with them.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.