Several years ago as a young university student, we were encouraged to volunteer in nearby schools as part of the education degree program. I chose a junior high, that requested help with academic support. Upon the initial meeting with the principal, he indicated there were several students who needed help learning to read. My immediate and naive response was “Why have they not learned to read?”
The principal sat straight up in his chair, and answered firmly, “Young lady, you have a lot to learn”. Yes indeed, I knew I had lots to learn, yet was disturbed by his statement. My question, along with his response, have been deep inspiration for my entire teaching career.
The volunteer hours were spent helping a teenaged boy learn to read the driver’s manual. He so desperately wanted to pass the test, and in those times there were no accommodations provided. This student had huge motivation, authentic purpose and a volunteer helper who believed in his ability to understand the content and learn to read what he had chosen.
For all of my years in education, I have been part of helping students learn to read. There were a few hectic years when I became part of a norm that accepted the fact that some kids would just not learn this complex task. I used the “blame game” and hoped that time, the “resource room” and the next year’s teacher would fix the problem. However my professional learning drive and passion kept going back to that volunteer experience.
Instead of asking, “Why have they not learned to read?” I revised my inquiry to become, “What can we do to help all students learn to read?” Even though we examine possible barriers (the why nots), we must focus on what we can do as educators, parents and community members to ensure early reading success matters.
High expectations for our learners is essential. Regie Routman in Read, Write, Lead (2014) talks of the critical importance of an “expectations mindset”. High expectations for ourselves as educators is equally as important.
Our work as reading teachers must continue to evolve and not be taken for granted. We need to find ways that kids can and want to learn to read, not just hope kids learn the way we teach. Instead we rely on the experts (Significant Perspectives) for their wisdom and research. We rely on each other for our positive experiences and frustrations through connected, collaborative learning. We rely on getting to know our readers- their interests, wonders, strengths and areas for improvement. We rely on purposeful planning and assessment, to guide our students towards reading success within a changing literacy world.
High expectations for all.