Trying Something a Little Bit Scary Every Day. #sol21
I’m a literacy coach. I’ve gone by many titles over the years, but this is the one I’ve settled into, the one I feel in my bones. I coach students and their teachers every day Monday through Friday. I attempt coaching my husband, my sons and my dogs on the weekends and evenings, but honestly, I’m much less successful at that…
Honestly, I’m having a little crisis of faith in my own coaching abilities recently. You see, I’m asking a lot of people big and small to move out of their comfort zone to ‘where the magic happens’. I believe they call them comfort zones for a reason… they are comfortable… and secure. But unfortunately, the times they are changing. As Irene Fountas said in a recent podcast, we still have to look at those students in front of us and figure out what to do next. (I paraphrase). We can blame it on the pandemic, on the changing times, on exposure, learning loss, regardless we desperately need to dig deep and shift.
I’m struck with the difficulty of this for so many as I cajole and prod my way through the day. Everyone is trying to make life easier for themselves and perhaps those around them. It seems like a great cause, but then there’s reality.
Schools and their communities thrive on routines and common commitments. In the past few years, those routines and the fabric of those commitments has honestly frayed. We are in the business of creating a new normal and it’s …. tricky.
The next ‘testing window’ is fast approaching. Usually in January, we give a round of assessments to the students which include a benchmark assessment in reading and math along with an oral reading and comprehension assessment. Here in Massachusetts, we have many new assessment requirements to identify dyslexia, many of which we as a learning community already had in place. Typically, we did an oral reading and comprehension assessment routinely and determined the instructional reading level of each student. That was our routine. It has been my routine for decades.
If you’re an elementary educator, you sensed my sigh after that last sentence. Unless you’ve been in complete media silence, you know the debate that is raging and getting louder and louder.
Here’s what I know… I went to a research university for my undergraduate and another one for my first graduate degree. The science of reading, so to speak, was mostly new then. I’ve read Proust and the Squid. I believe in brain research… and I also believe what Irene Fountas said, there are still students in front of us, that we need to do our own research on, and then plan accordingly. As a coach, I want to help educators in my learning community bridge that thinking.
It’s true, some of old ways don’t work. I don’t know if they always were faulty or a new generation of students has required us to rethink them. Most of these ‘new’ old ideas make sense to me …. and balance literacy still makes sense to me as well. The criticism is strong and it sounds compelling, but one thing I learned at that research university is that research is always a little biased… and people naturally want to be the one others are listening too.
So as I sit down with those teachers, I’m not going to ask them to veer off the road they’ve traveled so to speak. I am going to ask them to think about brain research, consider the students in front of them, and systematically try something scary, something new, something that might just make all the difference.