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.
This post is to commemorate the importance and fabulousness of International Literacy Day
. Thank goodness that there are smart people everywhere who recognize that the story is everything and want to unlock the power of story for each and every child.
So, sit back and let me tell you a story about a little boy who one day discovered the wonder and magic of reading.
Once there was a student. We shall call him Muppet. By the spring of first grade, Muppet had made progress as a reader, but it was slow. Painfully slow. For both of us. He received all the extra help I could beg, borrow and steal. Yet more and more of my little friends were graduating into more difficult books, while my Muppet stayed in books that were clearly super easy.
Although he never said anything to me, I knew it bugged him to be so far behind. There were days when I noticed him trying to hide his books from the other children at his table because his books were filled with big, colorful pictures and very little text. While his friends blissfully made their way through a chapter book, Muppet sat staring at the ceiling.
Did his embarrassment motivate him to spend more time reading? Of course not, but it did motivate the heck out of me to find what else I could do to help.
One morning, I presented Muppet with a nonfiction book about octopuses (octopi?). A few minutes later, I checked in with Muppet to see how he was faring. I was immediately thrown off because Muppet was totally engrossed in the book, studying each photograph-filled page as if it was pure genius. Muppet was intently working his way through each and every word. I watched him study the page, taking in all the labels and well....reading. Me
: So, how’s it going over here? Muppet
: Mrs. Mimi? Me
: Yes honey? Muppet
: Okay, wait. Wait. Wait. Okay, so you’re saying that I can read this book and actually learn stuff? Me
: (Um, what?
) Well, yes. Of course you can. Muppet
: Even me? Me
: Of course even you. Muppet
: So, I can want to know about something, find the book and teach myself? Me
: Um, yeah. You can absolutely do that. That’s what we were talking about today. Muppet
: Cool! Me
: Do you want to know more about anything in particular? I could find some more books for you... Muppet
: Really, you would do that? Me
: (Are you freaking kidding me? You’re asking me for books? Uh, yeah, I’ll go get them.
) Of course. Just tell me want you want to learn more about.
And just like that, Muppet decided that while he hated learning how to read, reading to learn was right up his alley.
If only I had figured this out three months ago! I gave him nonfiction book after nonfiction book and he devoured every single one. He read books about animals, books about people, books about places.
And almost every day, he would be desperate to show me something that he had learned in a book...all by himself. 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.
© 2012 Mrs. Mimi. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.