We just finished our third quarter of school. The kids and I have worked well over one hundred days together. We have spent a lot of time getting to know each other. We’ve created a loving, trusting community of learners. That doesn’t come easy and we have to come to it each day ready to challenge ourselves emotionally and intellectually. And I know that the work of getting to know each other is important because there is no learning without meaning and there is no meaning without connection. This makes our work of community and connecting essential to learning.
This week at a grade level team meeting we were told that some children were not progressing in their reading. Apparently these students need a reading intervention. The one thing according to the reading specialists that we have going for us is that we as teachers know our kids. There is the implication that we are somewhat lacking in other areas but congratulations, we do know our kids. So the people who are the experts at teaching reading are going to take those kids who are not progressing and they will give them intensive daily reading interventions. In theory the children will progress in their reading.
I was talking to a colleague about this and she said something that really struck me. “You have to get to them before you can teach them.” Yes, you do. You have to get to them. And I had an image of my kids bobbing in a treacherous ocean. As a teacher I have thrown them a life preserver by way of a snack, a winter coat, a smile, a listening ear, an encouragement, a refusal of anything less then their best. I have spent all year trying to get to them. I can tell you how every one of those children has progressed over the last one hundred days. I can tell you about the obstacles in their way. And I can tell you our plan to go farther. But for the powers that be it just isn’t fast enough. It doesn’t look good on paper.
Honestly I hope that someone has a magic that I don’t have. I hope that someone who better knows the ways of teaching reading will give them something I have not. But I don’t like sending my kids out into someone else’s ocean, someone who does not know them. I’ll be preparing them. I’ll be sending extra encouragement and smiles. I will be giving a little extra time with a listening ear. That’s what you do when someone is connected to you and they go out on a difficult journey. You send all your love and care in the best ways you know how and then you hope they come back stronger then when they left. There are so many things I want to tell those reading specialists about these children. If you push this one too hard she shuts down. You have to wait that guy out, patiently. She doesn’t have confidence and is always trying to please. You see I know them but all that knowing, it takes a lot of time. And we don’t have time for that. It doesn’t look good on paper.