Yesterday I watched a video of a struggling reader with a group of second grade teachers. As they listened to him read and analyzed his miscues and asked questions about him as a reader, they hypothesized and thought about what he needs to get better. They commented on how cute he was and sympathized about his struggle. They wished out loud that they could work with this child. In short, they fell in love.
Last September, this child’s teacher loved this reader, too. She tried her best to teach him, but as he failed to make the progress she hoped he would, he grew apathetic and uncooperative. He became easily distracted and ill-behaved. By June, September’s love affair had morphed into an eager parting of ways. Good riddance.
Anybody who has ever taught children understands what it is like to teach a child who struggles. When children struggle, it is easy to blame the learner. He’s lazy. He’s not listening. He’s not trying. He’s not supported at home. It’s somehow easier to explain away misgivings when it’s the child’s fault.
But…what if it’s not the child? What if it’s something we’re doing? Or not doing?
As we analyzed the behaviors and errors that this child made as a reader, I was reminded of how important it is that we be reflective about the children we teach. On this day in September, we understand what this reader needs. But as he grows and changes, his needs will change. Only if we remain perceptive and reflective will we change our instruction and approach to continue to meet his needs. We can only do this if we care enough to keep trying.
This September, I urge you to not only fall in love with your students, but to stay in love. When you feel frustrated by the teaching challenges before you, ask questions, think out loud with colleagues, but whatever you do, don’t stop exploring what you could do differently or better to teach the children who sit before you.
Have a great year.