For years, I couldn’t understand why my own students weren’t growing as readers. Why the same names showed up at our data meetings as kids who were failing to progress. Why some kids made the yearly growth and others sat stagnantly. I was trying, using the framework of balanced literacy, yet I didn’t see how my own lack of knowledge, my own lack of tools, was directly leading to them not growing. How, although I had the components in place, there was so much more I could be doing for all of the kids. Instead, I looked outward hoping that surely someone else; special ed, reading specialists, ESL support, someone must know how to reach these kids. How to teach these kids.
I am a classroom teacher. Every day, I am responsible for not just the literacy lives, but also the well being of more than 100 students. Every day, I am expected to provide the very best instruction that I can to every child that walks through our door.
Despite their mood. Despite their situation. Despite their past interactions with our educational system. Despite their life circumstances that may or may not stand in their way.
I am the facilitator of what is meant to be meaningful literacy experiences that will suit all of their needs. Every day. Every class. Every child.
My job is no different than so many others. This is what I became a teacher to do, I am supposed to provide my students with what we know works within literacy instruction: time to engage with meaningful reading and writing, including time to read and write, supported and explicit instruction, personalization to meet their needs through one-on-one conferring or small group instruction. Utilizing an inclusive classroom library filled with books that I have read, coupled with visits to the school library (with a certified librarian). I am supposed to develop my skills so that every child has a chance to not just survive but succeed within our classroom. That’s my job. That’s our job.
And yet, in many classrooms, kids are not getting these foundations of literacy. They are not getting time to read. They are not surrounded by books. They are not being provided personalized instruction to suit their needs. Instead, they are forced to sit in front of computers who quiz them on their skills, read through basal texts that allow for little to no personalization, told that only books that fit their level is allowed reading material. Taught by teachers who are trying so hard yet are meeting resistance every step of their way, whether from the systems, the decisionmakers, or even their own lack of training.
And then we wonder why so many kids end up in tier 2 or tier 3 interventions?
So this year, I will continue to examine my own practices as the teacher of Tier 1. I will make sure that the instruction I am providing is effective, focused, and research-based. I will make sure that my foundations are in order and also well-taught so that kids have a chance to grow in our classroom. I will disseminate my own practice before I look outwards. And I encourage other teachers, other decisionmakers, other schools to do the same. If too many kids are in intervention, then foundations are missing in our classrooms. If too many kids are not making growth, then we look at what is happening with us first. And we look at it from a systems place. Are systems in place to support kids on their reading journey? Are systems in place to helps kids develop their reading identity? Are systems in place to teach the joy of reading and not just the skills? Which systems stand in their way of success? Which systems harm rather than help?
And that’s where we start. Not with pull-out, but with better in class instruction. Not with intervention, but with reexamination. With a commitment to the best classroom instruction, we can provide, supported by the administrative decisions that are being made. Perhaps a lofty dream, but a dream worth pursuing nonetheless.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first 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.