Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Spoiler Alert: I Failed as a Reading Teacher Last Year

In my first year of teaching, I was lucky enough to have a stellar mentor teacher who taught me a lot of hidden secrets about teaching: "start with the bulletin boards...",  "it's okay to cry...", "you will get sick...", "sleep.....", and my personal favorite, "if you aren't reflecting and changing, that's a problem..." She instilled in me the power of reflection.  Reflecting about the rewarding, the funny, the ugly.. and most importantly, the "stuck places." Reevaluating who we are as educators and the impact we are having on students is crucial work, and should never be complete.

So my stuck place at the end of last year?  Well, I'll be honest... I had a few. But where did I feel the most stuck?  Reading.  I had successfully navigated a year with new curriculum and standards, I had taught the concepts I needed to teach and checked them off as the year went on.  I pulled literature I was instructed to pull for mini-lessons. I had conferences with my students (when I could squeeze that in...) I hung anchor charts I had seen in books to make myself believe I was doing what was right and yet, I still felt in my heart that I had done a disservice to my kiddos.  I hadn't gotten to know my students as readers, we didn't have conversations about books, I wasn't a reader.

Now as the end of this year approaches, and as I continue my reflection of the past year, I feel as though I'm a bit more on track.  No longer am I looking at recommended text lists to teach an isolated strategy.  No longer am I giving a reluctant reader a book that has a level on it... (I cringe to admit that happened...) No longer am I sitting idle by a student, rehearsing the next conference phrase to say, making plans about who I need to make it to before the reading block ends.

So what does reading look like in Room 18 this year?  Well, just that... reading.  I am reading new genres and books to recommend to those reluctant readers.  I am checking in with students to keep them accountable, as they do for me.  I am listening to readers share about their feelings about the text, and why the author made the choices they did.  I hear conversations about books, and see readers cringe when the characters they have come to love in their stories make that terrible decision.  We learn about things that matter to us. Recommendations about books fly around the classroom to those readers who need them most.  And most of all, my students are establishing habits that will lead them to become avid readers in the future.. and to me, that's what is most important.

Do I have it all right?  Heck no.  Will I ever?  No way..  but I'm feeling a little more "unstuck," and as I reflect on the readers I have seen grow inside our classroom walls this year, I can't help but feel a little bit proud.

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