Being a teacher means embracing constant change. Yet all too often, teachers are told when, how and why to change. In this monthly column, Mrs. Mimi takes on creating change for herself by rethinking old practices and redefining teaching on her own terms.
Happy World Read Aloud Day! If you are celebrating, I hope your day is fabulous and you revel in the joy that is reading. (Nerd alert, right?) And if you are not celebrating today, I hope your day is fabulous and you revel in the joy that is reading.
If you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, what I am saying is that whether it is World Read Aloud Day, a Monday, the third Tuesday of the month or the day back after a long vacation, reveling in the love of reading should be something that is considered and practiced each and every day.
Don’t get me wrong—days such as World Read Aloud Day are extremely important and make for wonderful celebrations. They help us to remember how lucky we are to share our stories, our opinions, and our knowledge with one another through the written word. However, I would say that celebrating the joy of reading, books, blogs, and all the other texts that deserve to be enjoyed just one or two days out of the year is not enough.
Think about your own reading instruction, and think about it honestly. Is it fun? Is there a sense of excitement about what you are reading and learning to do as readers? Is there an air of celebration for the accomplishments of students? Or is it task-oriented, test-driven and all about getting to the next level?
If you are a joy-filled wonderland of reading excitement and growth, go get yourself a cocktail and celebrate you. If not, I’ve been there too and I know how you (most likely) got there.
We are teachers, we are list-makers, we are afraid of dropping a ball, we are diligent, and we are just trying to navigate our way through an ever changing landscape of standards, mandates and programs. Am I right or am I left? The business of teaching small friends how to read is serious and should be taken seriously, but not so seriously that we beat every ounce of fun out of it, leaving it in a sad pile with nothing but a rubric and Scantron sheet to keep it warm at night.
So, how do you get your groove back? I would suggest reflecting on your own reading life. What and how do you read for pleasure? If you’re like me, it’s a reward at the end of a long day or a treat in the midst of a busy week. Why can’t this sort of reading for pleasure be reflected in our classrooms? Extra reading time in the midst of a busy week viewed as a way to treat ourselves and celebrate our hard work. Or extra reading time at the end of the day as a way to unwind and enjoy some time to get lost in a book. Reading is a pleasure (when your students are given choices) and should be viewed and practiced as such within the classroom.
Now think about your next unit of study or the next few weeks of instruction. What are your overarching goals for your students as readers? Do you have specific goals for each student that you can track and celebrate once they are accomplished? Keep your eye on the prize by holding two or three goals for your students in your mind as a way to avoid getting mired down in the day by day tasks of completing graphic organizers, logging titles and making it to all of your conferences on time.
Finally, think about the ways in which you celebrate the written word and your students’ accomplishments as readers. Do you celebrate at all? Do you celebrate with cupcakes and cheesy poofs? While I can certainly see the joy in a good crunchy cheesy poof and know that the rush of sugar that comes from cupcakes can make your little friends appear joyful (prior to the crash that is inevitable), is their joy related to their reading successes or is it related to the novelty of gloriously salty or sugary midday snacks? Consider moving away from the cupcakes (I know, they are fabulous) and toward more authentic celebrations in which children name their successes, compliment one another, become famous for their achievements and share their learning in more authentic ways.
The bottom line is if we get stressed and over burdened by day-to-day teaching points, we can easily lose what should be the common thread of our reading instruction – joy. If we are pumped up, they are pumped up. And if we can model our classroom practices after the real-life authentic joy that can come from reading, we are golden.
Happy World Read Aloud Day and happy celebrating…everyday. Mrs. Mimi is a pseudonymous teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of IT'S NOT ALL FLOWERS AND SAUSAGES: MY ADVENTURES IN SECOND GRADE, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
© 2013 Mrs. Mimi. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.