Tag Archives: Independent Reading
I cringe every time I see the “joke” what three things do teachers love best about teaching? June, July, August.
In reality, at least for teachers in the Northeast, June is a nightmare. It’s rush, rush, rush to finish up: cram in one more lesson, complete the unit, administer the final, get everything graded, pack up the classroom, sign yearbooks, and by the last week in June, we look like we’ve been run over by a school bus.
Let’s face it, middle school is hard. Not necessarily academically—although for some kids that is true. But it’s hard because of the place it is: the middle. Students aren’t little kids even though things like recess and stickers and “potty humor” still tickle them. They aren’t true teenagers focused on college and careers. They are literally stuck in the middle. Socially, they’re trying to figure out who to be. Physically, I might have a 6’4” boy sitting next to a 4’9” boy. Some of my girls may look like they’re nine and others 19. Middle school is hard for my students. When I tell most adults what I do, they take a step back and say how awful middle school is, usually because they’re reflecting on their time in that space.
I recently sat with some department colleagues discussing curriculum. The conversation turned to teaching shared texts and requiring independent novels. I was surprised to hear my colleagues struggled to get students to read a choice book at the same time a shared text (whole-class novel or lit circles) was being read. They were surprised to hear that my students read both. My colleagues said there was no way their kids would do both. I replied, “But mine do, so what am I doing differently?” My students were no more the avid reader than theirs. They weren’t any brighter or any more in love with ELA than theirs. We sat around a group of desks pondering that question, and no one had an answer. We threw some ideas around but really came up short.
My passion is literacy. This is no surprise to any of you who know me in the real world or in the virtual one. However, if I were to give a definition to this passion, I would have to say that my real passion is adolescent literacy – what do kids read, write, view, listen to, and speak about and more importantly what will get them to read (more), write (more), view things differently and even critically, listen critically, and express themselves clearly. I’ve spent 19 years in the classroom observing young adolescents and literacy and honing my pedagogy to help them become lifelong readers, writers, and consumers of knowledge. I’ve sought graduate degrees in this field, and I’m currently writing my dissertation about this topic. You may say I’m an expert, but I’m not the only one… (to badly paraphrase John Lennon), and John Lennon and the rest of the Beatles is where I want to begin today.
Monday will start my first full day sitting and watching someone else teach my class. I’m not sure how I feel about this. In theory, I’m pretty excited because I get to shape the next generation of teacher. In theory, I can use my 19 years of experience, my knowledge of young adolescents, my knowledge of literacy – both best practices and theory – to help mold this young teacher-to-be. That thought alone is pretty awe-inspiring. So what could be wrong with that?