Striving for excellence is a personal pastime. Doug highlighted the International Reading Association’s position statement on excellent reading teachers today. I was challenged to look at my own teaching and compare it to the list they give as critical for excellent reading teaching.
Looking at the criteria, I reflect on my strengths and weaknesses. “They offer a variety of materials and texts for children to read.” This past week we went through our classroom library as a group and checked it against a rough criteria – interest, reading level, genre. They were very excited by their finds in the library and had many books they wanted to tuck into their desks for later. I regularly get buckets of books from the school library for my classroom and try to add non-fiction and magazines. I think I am good at variety of texts and materials.
“They understand reading and writing development and believe all children can learn to read and write.” I had an interesting conversation this week with a non-teacher, I was reminded of my specialized knowledge of reading and writing. I have an understanding of the components of reading – decoding words, using context clues, using syntax, developing more complex comprehension strategies – questioning, summarizing, inferencing, visualizing… I think I have a fairly strong understanding of reading and writing development. (That’s a relief).
My weaknesses bother me in my quest for excellence. I know to improve I need to see need but I would rather be perfect already. “They know a variety of ways to teach reading, when to use each method, and how to combine the methods into an effective instructional program.” I have a pile of methods in my tool box but figuring out which of my students needs which method at this particular moment is complex and difficult. I find it so much easier with my own son and daughter. I read with them regularly and when we come to words they don’t know or ideas they don’t understand, I can see which strategies they are using and which need support in that particular moment. When I have all my students in my classroom, it is more difficult. I know I need to conference more frequently, group more strategically. I need to work on the logistics of everyone doing different things at the same time and doing that productively.
It seems to me that the other criteria all dovetail onto the one above. Assessment is needed to plan the instructional program, flexible grouping is part of the instructional program, coaching reading is part of the instructional program. My challenge is to implement an effective instructional program. I have the ideas and the materials and the children… now to implement the program. I love this job!