Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Work Begins

The young man I began working with on Thursday afternoon would not fit Allen’s criteria for her literacy intervention classroom, and that disturbs me. I understand that she needed to prove the program could be successful; however, I question the motives. It seems to me that the school addressed the immediate needs of fourteen students who would be borderline in passing the state test. Sad but probably true.

Only years of teaching helped me get through my experience on Thursday. Don’t get me wrong, Billy is an adorable, intelligent, interesting young man. But, I realized within sixty seconds of meeting Billy that he was well below his 3rd grade placement, when I handed him the map of the building so he could help find our classroom. As I ask him to find the library, he pointed to the lounge on the map. Being over prepared paid-off; as I was unable to give all of the tests I planned, due to Billy’s inability to read. Looking back, I really do not know how I could have planned any differently, with so little information. I learned more from sharing a read aloud, asking questions, and listening, than from my assessments. Of course, observation is assessment, right? Now, I really move out of my comfort zone into assessing phonics skills. As many classes as I have taken, the fact that I was not taught to read using phonics has forever plagued me in my teaching. At this point, I really think it is more apprehension with unpracticed strategies, than lack of knowledge. I am concerned about our space, as Billy speaks loudly, not in a whisper, and two other students are in the room working. I did not hear them, and Billy seemed unphased by their presence, however, we may have disturbed them. As we talked in our groups after the students left, I listened to the frustrations and fears of new teachers, realizing the importance of collaboration among colleagues. What each of them must realize is they bring something to the table also, fresh ideas, a desire for success, and undoubtedly, knowledge of phonics!

Book Studies and Bubble Kids!

In “Becoming a Literacy Leader”, Jennifer Allen indicates that as a teacher she often found that her needs and interests were not met within the professional development time each year. I certainly can relate to these feelings; often resulting in frustration over wasted hours and a continual need for new ideas and strategies. Just as Allen began meeting the needs of her teachers through voluntary book studies, so has a small group of teachers I work with at BHS. Her perception of the need for study groups and not a “teaching” situation with one person being the expert reflects her ability to release control and provide teachers with a format that allows growth and sharing of ideas and strategies. I continue to wonder at their choice to continue with one book study for more than a year. As I reflect on our own book study over Strategies That Work by Harvey Daniels and Anne Goudvis last year, I realize that maybe we should have spent more time with the strategies as a group, implementing more of them in our classrooms and discussing outcomes with one another as Allen’s teachers did in their book study. This would enable us to become more proficient with the strategies before moving on to another study.

Allen’s literacy intervention classrooms created to address students on the “bubble” stirred mixed feelings. The strategies implemented in these classrooms were obviously successful, based on test results; however, I find it obvious, and a little disturbing, that the school targeted the very students that might score just a few points below proficient on state testing. It is not that I think these students did not need the extra interventions, but I do wonder at the school’s motives? As I read Allen’s strategies on weeding out who would and would not be in the literacy intervention classrooms, it concerned me that the young boy I began working with last week would not have been one of the chosen. What happens to those not receiving special education services and not in the literacy intervention classrooms? Reading Recovery? Title I? As a high school special education teacher, I often ask myself how a child gets to tenth grade that cannot read on a 2nd grade level. Thursday, I found myself asking, how does an intelligent child get to third grade reading below 1st grade level? I hope I can find the missing link. I don’t want to see this young man in my classroom when he is in tenth grade.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pre Reading Camp Reflections

August 29, 2010

As my journey begins with my final graduate reading class, Reading 633, better known as “Reading Camp”, I find myself apprehensive about meeting two young students who I know absolutely nothing about and beginning our relationship with assessment. As a high school teacher, the apprehension doubles due to years of experience with teenagers, and very little experience with fourth grade and under other than my own grandchildren. There is one connection to my high school students however; due to their reading disabilities, most of them usually read within the same range as the students coming to reading camp. As I consider my first lesson plan, my first objective must be to get to know my student’s interest and ability so we can proceed with a positive, successful learning experience.

Jennifer Allen’s “Becoming a Literacy Leader: Supporting Learning and Change”, offers a very positive outlook on reading growth in the school. As we have two new literacy leaders at BHS, I can’t help but wish to share this book and the possibilities for our own staff. Allen offers many ideas and resources, as she explicitly talks about her growth as a literacy coach, beginning from scratch with little money and a very bare room. Allen’s beginning struggle with professional development workshops where the teachers sat as observers rather than willing participates reminds me of many workshops I have attended. I must confess that I plan to borrow her idea “My Life in Seven Stories” for my own English classes. Of course, I must get busy with my own “first story” so I have a model for my students.