While sipping a soy white mocha at Romancing the Bean, the world’s cutest coffee shop which happens to be located in Burbank, I’m torn between two possible intros. One, a personal experience in a department meeting, the other a personal experience with a book. Since this post is about reading, I’m starting with the book.
* A note on reading this blog: This will be a long post and you don’t have to read EACH section ; ) If you’d like to jump ahead to New Semester, New Reading Goals
which will discuss classroom practices for this semester, feel free (without the guilt)!
One book has impacted my teaching pedagogy more than any other: Readicide by Kelly Gallagher @KellyGToGo. After asking students to chart their reading experiences outside of English class, he reports, “. . .freshmen students read an average of seventeen minutes. . .my seniors averaged thirteen minutes” (58). Wow! And administrators, lawmakers and people outside of the classroom wonder why reading levels continue to plummet. While Gallagher’s short book was published in 2009, I’m positive the amount of time high school students spend reading in school has decreased even more with the explosion of smart boards, video integration, and one-to-one tech occurring in 21st century schools. Granted, I love technology for teaching, but being able to sit for an extended period of time and simply read is a skill that needs to be modeled and taught in the classroom.
I’ve had my own Kelly Gallagher experience. A former ninth grade student came to my class after school when she was a senior for assistance on an essay she was writing on Tuesdays with Morrie. After asking a few guiding questions, I asked her if she’d read any part of the book. The student replied, “I haven’t read anything in any English class since yours.” In my class, students do all of the reading in class, in small groups. Since I teach SDC, many of my students struggle with reading and I want to ensure they have support when reading any core literature. This specific exchange taught me how good kiddos are at avoiding reading and still passing classes.
I could give a mountain full of scenarios, add yours on top, and this blog post would stretch the definition of infinity. Instead, I will simply say if you haven’t read Readicide, get it now; and if you have, consider revisiting it.
Starting the year with a new department chair is both frightening and exciting. The first meeting started with an interesting question: What are the three most important things you want to teach your students? We talked in small groups and shared responses. A colleague soon called out that she wants to teach students to love reading, to which the new department chair stopped and addressed this idea specifically. Is this a skill? Can you actually teach this? How do you assess a student’s love of reading?
I think each of us will have gut reactions to those questions in one way or another. Your responses will tell much of how you teach and what you value. Regardless of your feelings, these are important questions to ask and address.