Saturday, April 17, 2010

Calling All Learners

Yesterday I attended a conference co-sponsored by the Long Island Language Arts Council and the Nassau Reading Council titled “Calling all Learners.” Before this day began, I gave very little thought to the name of this conference. In my mind, it was a conference—a place to gather and talk and learn with people who love literacy as much as I do.

As the morning got underway, I listened to several announcements and introductions and listened intently as Kerry Vann, president of LILAC spoke about the title of this year’s conference: Calling All Learners. She asked the audience to consider whether we were prepared to answer the call to meet the needs of all learners or would we “screen our calls” and meet the needs of only the ones we thought we could help or felt up to the task of teaching.

When she spoke, I couldn’t believe my ears. Just moments earlier, before the introductions began, I sat chatting with some colleagues whom I hadn’t seen in awhile and our conversation turned to Response to Intervention, one of the hottest buzz words in educational circles at the moment. As we talked, I shared that I thought that the greatest outcome of RTI will be teacher accountability. No longer will it be okay to identify students with reading difficulties and push them along to the reading teacher and say, “okay, now you fix them.” RTI forces classroom teachers to understand and value their role in developing reading proficiency differently. RTI will help to promote realization of a long neglected fact: when children struggle, everybody is responsible. Strugglers are not simply the charge of specialists.

I admit, the telephone analogy implied in the title of this year’s conference was lost on me at the onset of yesterday’s program. But, as a I listened to Kerry speak, I was sold. We are steeped in a culture of technology and instant gratification. We do need to be reminded that we cannot “screen our calls” if we are going to create students prepared to meet the demands of the twenty-first century.

To the people responsible for laboring over a thoughtful title for yesterday’s conference, I’d like to say thank you. You certainly have me thinking about my role and responsibility in “answering the call.”

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