Sunday, May 6, 2018

As we near the end of the year...

I've been doing some reading, and this common theme has been emerging. And I'm at a point where I need to be delivering a rousing speech on this. But... it's not the right time of year for this... and I'm not a speech giver. So instead I'm going to jot some thoughts down here on it.

I'm currently involved in several book studies. I'm reading Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed. I'm also slowly progressing through Culturize by Jimmy Casas. One other book I recently read is On Your Mark by Thomas Guskey. I mention all these because they really have all fit into my whirlwind of thoughts on this.

I'll start with Guskey... in his book on grading reform, Thomas Guskey draws attention to a pretty important distinction in what we think we are doing with our instruction and grading, and what we actually are doing. His question: Are we developing talent or are we selecting it? We hear all the time about how teachers mold and shape young minds, that we push students to do and be their very best. But if we are honest, we don't develop as much as we want to think we do. Sure we will push any student we meet that wants to learn, or even those who are really smart but don't put forth the effort we would like them to. But really and truly developing all the talent in our buildings? I don't think so. Don't get me wrong, I've been as guilty of this as anyone else has, but I also recognize that I need to do better, and so it's something I work on a lot, as it can be difficult and take a lot of work. And honestly, in our current state of education, the way we are set up is just not as conducive to developing all students, all talent. There are some movements on the horizon that could help make it easier to do, but right now we are using what we have and doing what we feel like is the best we can. And that best places a heavy emphasis on "selecting" the best by teaching and pushing students, and seeing who comes out on top.

The problem with selecting talent, though, and not developing it, is in the way we recognize, or rather, don't recognize those who aren't selected. Those who don't rise to the challenge, for whatever reason, just don't cut it. And *shudder* we regard them as such, some of us *double shudder* even tell them so. I just read the saddest thing in Culturize by Jimmy Casas, and it stuck out so much to me because I know it still happens now. "I wanted them to hold me to a high standard, not turn away and tell another adult that I wasn't worth it."

Oh. My. Gosh. This happens?! It really happens! It's one of those things where you are shocked at first to even fathom it, but then you start to think about it, and you actually hear comments like these come out of teachers' mouths on occasion, or even regularly. Students have come to school, a place where they are supposed to feel safe, encouraged and challenged. For some school is the most secure constant in their lives, and instead they are given the message that they aren't worth the effort.



Now there are a lot of things that do not go in teachers' favor. Class sizes are huge, supplies are at a minimum, limits are placed on what teachers feel they can do, say or work on. Teaching is definitely a career that has it's massive ups and downs, and we as teachers seem to feel so much that we sometimes can't escape it. But when it gets down to it, we chose this career because we felt as though we could make a difference and teach young people. And we do not get to decide who gets that difference and who doesn't. We may not appreciate the way some students convey their feelings on school, but we should be taking those occasions as a challenge to change their minds, not dismiss them. As Casas says we need to be a "champion for our students," and that means all of them.

This time of year is high stress for everyone. Most of us have state testing that causes us endless worries for our students, as well as the usual end of school year chaos. I don't want to add one more thing to the list, but I do feel like the question is important enough to be at least posed. So if you don't mind, ponder these questions over when you are frustrated at a student or group of:

Are you championing all your students?

Are you ensuring that all your students know they are cared for and encouraged to be the best they can be?

Are you remembering that every student is worth it?

These are just meant to be gentle reminders that even when we think our students don't care about school, or about us, they are still watching to see if we care about them.



So this brings me to the final book I'm reading by Sara K. Ahmed, "Being the Change." This book is all about helping students to be more socially aware and cognizant of the importance of our differences as people. We all could benefit from these lessons, and its especially important for us to model them and demonstrate how important this level of awareness is. We also need to recognize the stereotypes we make towards others, including students. I'm not talking just about cultural ones, but ones based upon possible labels or behaviors that students possess. We cannot perpetuate that all students with a certain attribute act in a particular manner. We inadvertently mimic these types of prejudices regularly, and honestly we need to check ourselves. Part of our responsibility as educators is to model appropriate and welcoming interaction to all people, especially our students. If we aren't doing that, we are doing our kids a major disservice.

So yea, this was a bit of a ramble. But as I was reading I started tying things together in my head and I felt like this must. come. out. Our kids deserve better. No matter what time of the year, they always deserve better.

If you're interested in purchasing any of the books (I don't have any affiliate purchase links or anything) the links to them are below. :) They are definitely worth being added to any summer reading list.







On Your Mark, by Thomas Guskey








                                                                               Culturize by Jimmy Casas                                         










Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension, by Sara K. Ahmed

Thursday, March 29, 2018

That funny feeling

So I'm reading another professional book now about grading. This one, Charting a Course to Standards-Based Grading: What to stop, what to start, and why it matters" by Tim R. Westerberg kind of combines some of Thomas Guskey's sentiments but also talks about the actual process of reforming the grading practices that we have such problems with.

I just read a line that struck me and I needed to stop and reflect on it for just a second.  So here goes:

     "Why do we insist on using an assessment and grading system that yields results that fly in the face of teacher judgement?" (p 31)

About 20 things flew through my mind as that question settled in, and some of my questions are below:

  • Why and how do we insist?
  • Which of the myriad of grading systems and assessment types yield these results?
  • Have we stopped to consider whether we are consistent or not in these face-flying systems we insist upon?

This topic of grading is so...personal for teachers, and it can be hard to even broach the subject. To pose concerns about our assessment systems not only potentially calls into question our professional knowledge base, but it also makes us wonder whether we were even educated the "right" way. I mean, what if all those assumptions we made about how we "turned out" were actually not totally correct? What if we could have done something while pursuing our education that made us even better?

Nope, nope... not even going to go there. And here's where you usually see the conversation end.

But let's go back to that question for a second... the idea of using something that "flies in the face of our judgement"? What judgement is it talking about? This is where my light bulb hit, and I want to share what I think that judgement may be.

So think back to a time where you were calculating final grades. You enter in the missing assignments, save your progress and take look at the numbers. And then you spot that kid... yea that kid. Here are some of the students I'm talking about.

Samantha Student, has 19 absences for the quarter and at one point had about 7 missing assignments. Your team called home so she showed up the last few days and churned out assignments, now passing, but barely.

Timothy Teenager is the most hardworking student you've seen in at least the last 10 years easily. He knows that his reading and writing are a little behind his peers, so he puts in extra time each night to complete assignments. His notebook for class is meticulous, and he's so well behaved but he doesn't really ask questions. Now you've realized that he apparently had some trouble this quarter, and the B that he held last quarter has fallen to a C based on his assessment data.

Lindsey Learner is at school every day, but she never talks to anyone. You worry that something is wrong, and have inquired some but never really gotten any answers. You think back to that one time where you worked with her on a math assignment, and you know she is utterly brilliant. She easily aces assessments most of the time, but occasionally, usually correlated to a bad day, she doesn't even finish a quiz, and those Fs factor in to her average, which is now a C for a mind that probably excels far above her peers.

Stephen Struggler is a student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) where he receives support for as many subjects as possible. He is so sweet but his difficulty is absolutely genuine. School doesn't come easily to him. He may improve in his ability to do algebra over the course of a class, but you very seriously doubt that its a skill he will carry with him into a four year university. Stephen is much more suited to a career in a trade. He is so detail oriented that there are a ton of options for him, and with his work ethic and personality you know he'll excel once he begins. But at this moment you are preparing to give him his most recent D- for the quarter.


You may have had one of these, or maybe even all of them at some point. You encounter their grades, think about them as a student, and then you get this feeling of something that just isn't "sitting right" with the grade they receive. Maybe you feel like it's unfair for them to receive such a low grade when they have cognitive deficits. Maybe you feel like it's too fair for them to pass even though they were missing assignments. Or maybe you just feel sad, because you know that even though you're technically "teaching" you aren't really helping them learn, or even be more well-rounded people.

That feeling, the "something isn't right feeling" is 
the part where our teacher judgement flags us. That's where our unspoken "help all children learn" mission is in question due to our own practices, and that feeling of frustration, malaise or concern is our response to it. For those who do not enjoy the approaching grading reform conversation, please understand you are already addressing the issue when you have those responses. It doesn't tell us what we need to do to *fix* these problems, but it does show us that we really do recognize a need to change assessment of our students. The practices and the results don't match, and they don't address what we are really measuring anyway, which is student learning. Maybe we are all a little closer to change than we realized, and we can help each other brace the rocky path towards reform.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The "L-Word" Challenge

This time of year is rough. A lot of us are in the middle of a long stretch of time with no break in sight. We've been at school for a month with no break. And we have another month to go. That's hard, y'all. Plus the spring semester is just so busy, and we know the summer is in sight, but not before we have our end of year tests. The pressure's mounting, and we all feel it. Things that we may have been handling all year now seem so "touchy." A comment we hear from a student all year long suddenly frustrates us beyond measure. I've been there, and I'm sure you have too.

During this time period and other stressful times for that matter, we tend to be a bit blameless and a bit more careless with our thoughts and opinions. This is most often when the "L-Word" rears its ugly head.

"I can't believe these research papers. They are terrible. Why are students so lazy these days?"

"Another Friday, another 12 students who did not turn in their work this week. How do we combat such laziness?"

And the worst... an actual classroom accusation:

"There is no excuse for lazy in this room. You don't have to like it, but you have to do it, so let's get to it."

We throw the "L-Word" around like it means nothing. But it does. If you were, as an adult, called lazy in your job, how would you feel about it? Incensed? Disheartened? Defeated? All of the above, possibly? Being called lazy is not an uplifting experience for anyone, but it's especially detrimental if it is used to describe a child in a classroom who doesn't necessarily have the capacity to use it in a motivational way. So today, I'm issuing a challenge for us all. Let's outlaw the "L-Word" in our schools.

Before I continue, let me say that I am just as guilty of using this in the past as anyone. I also completely understand the need to vent about frustrations that happen with our students and our jobs. But even when we feel we are only casually voicing our frustrations, our comments cannot be unspoken, and we may be delivering more of a message about ourselves as educators than about our students.

Instead of questioning why our students aren't working to their potential, what if we ask ourselves a few questions:

-Are we sure what we are asking is reasonable for our students' current entry points?
-Are we wielding grades as weapons for motivation, or using them to communicate to students where they are and where they are headed?
-What are the possible reasons (besides what we perceive) as to why our students aren't meeting their expectations?
-What have we done to show students the importance and relevance of what they are doing?
-What have we done to show our students how important they and their learning are to us teachers?

If the answers to these don't come easily, then we may need to reassess our approach. We may be creating the circumstances that we are labeling as lethargic. No student wants to be lazy. Even if they call themselves that, they don't mean it. (Think about a time where you've called yourself that in jest. It happens.) Students generally are not as apathetic as we deem them to be. If we haven't reached them, there's more we can try, but we don't get to assume things about their work ethic based on our past experiences. We are inadvertently perpetuating the problem, and that's not fair to them or us.

So back to my challenge.  Can you help me ban the "L-Word" in education? Can we work together to eradicate it from our conversations? From our classrooms? From our school culture?










Friday, December 15, 2017

How productive is your struggle?

   I spent some time today in a classroom working on math with a small group of students.  Math can feel tough for some people (and if it is you've probably heard them say so).  And we didn't even really get started before I noticed the visible frustration on the kids' faces.  Heads were down on the table, they were fussing with each other about silly little things that normally wouldn't bother them much, and they just started trying to copy what I was doing.

   At one point, after one too many frustrated sighs, I had to call a time out.  And we started talking about their frustration.  I talked to them about a conference I attended this summer, which was specifically a math conference, where I learned more about the concept of a productive struggle.  (I should note at this point that these students barely knew me, so you can imagine the looks I received when I started this.). You ever have it happen where you feel like you have "known" something for a long time but also didn't "know" it?  This was me with this productive struggle concept.  I can be particularly tenacious about succeeding in some ways, but I can also waver quite a bit in my resolve with others, depending on all kinds of factors.  In other words, I approach problems in the way that most people approach them; I try until I either figure it out or am done trying.

   Because math has felt easy for me most of the time (except for TRIG... yikes) it has been quite a journey as a teacher over the years.  I think it must be human nature that it's really hard to understand why others don't like what you like.  It's like you have to struggle with it too at first to really feel the frustration or anxiety or whatever emotion.  And honestly it was not as easy for me to work towards empathy rather than sympathy as I would want everyone else to imagine.  And it is work--you have to try, repeatedly, to put yourself in the shoes of others on a consistent basis.  It takes intent and patience.  I had to learn it the hard way for sure.

   So I'm talking to these teenage boys about frustrations and why the process of working through something so difficult is still so important.  Some look at me with no expression (though I can imagine what some of their thoughts were at the time), while others nod, perhaps in agreement, perhaps to get me to leave them alone so they can just finish copying what I'm doing.  We talk and then get back to work.  And there's this one student who has scowled quite a bit through this process, and he chose this moment to voice the source of that scowl.  "This isn't what Ms. Teacher said to do.  I just don't understand this.  I don't get it," in a tone that suggested he was at a fairly high level of stress by this point.

   Earlier in my career I would have let this be the time where I gave him some space to calm down some, not pushing the angst any higher, and honestly probably giving myself an out in the process.  I can see it now, "I mean I don't want to make him feel any worse.  We'll just try again another time *maybe*".  I would have done exactly what this student, who routinely experiences this emotion, wants me to do.

   Or does he?  Does he really and truly want me to just ignore his frustration and leave it be?  I guess it's possible.  But I really doubt it.  He doesn't want to feel this way about math.  He doesn't want to have a struggle that causes him to lash out instead of feel proud.  He probably expected me to ignore it, and wouldn't have been surprised if I did.  But I didn't.  I said, "okay, let's talk about it.  Let's start over and you help me get through this problem."  And I asked questions to him, and I made a point to tune out the others who were eager to try and make a guess or interject.  I asked him what he thought, what happens next, how do we fix that...  and then he answers me, puts his head in his hands, and says "uhhh I'm so dumb!"


   Now it seems like he was saying it because he struggled so much, but actually he had just realized that he did know how to do it.  He knew how to solve this equation, and he had protested its difficulty so much that he felt silly about it now.  And that's what I told him.  "You obviously aren't dumb, and you shouldn't feel that way.  You let your frustration from before cloud your head.  It felt like you couldn't do it, so you shut it out."  And he nodded in assent.  And then this kid, who sat stone-faced for the first two problems, helped me solve the last two.

   I'm not rolling out the teacher of the year carpet here y'all.  This isn't one of those movies where I work diligently to get the kids on my side and everything comes up roses.  These boys still struggle with math, and they perhaps will continue to for a while.  But I was honest with them and tried to help them see the positive of these challenging experiences, and I feel that honesty may help this student not jump to a self-deprecation so quickly next time.  I'm also not so naive as to think this one instance has changed his course or made him a believer in his math abilities.  He did get two more problems correct though than he would have otherwise, so it didn't hurt either.

    I just read this amazing blog post by Josh Parker, an instructional coach and teacher.  You can find it here.  Part of the awesomeness is that he used quotes from a great book, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, but the best thing about this post is that you can feel yourself in the position of this teacher and the interaction with this student.  It can be so hard to feel your lesson is sliding off the rails, or you have a student that isn't appreciating your effort, and not trying to either.  And the thought of determining the cause of this student's actions runs through your head, but pursuing it seems too difficult to try at this point.  We absolutely need to try anyway.



   We spend a large portion of our day with students who are struggling with some aspect of what we are doing, and that's our job.  I wonder, though, if we couldn't help alleviate what feels like that "burden" by getting students more involved in the process?  If we can get students to recognize the importance of how they approach their problems (all their problems, not just math) and how they prioritize the procedure for solving them, in what ways would that change the look and feel of our learning environments?  Could we have more students feel less frustration during instruction and instead look at the fertility of their effort?  I'd like to think so.  I don't know that it would be a sudden, magical transformation but if we all had a moment or two each day with our students like I had in math, it seems like some pretty hefty changes could occur, and maybe we would all feel a little more productive in our struggles.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

So Meta

   Real talk: I love my job of helping educators, but I have really really enjoyed some classroom time as of late.  Teachers have been so welcoming of new ideas and have invited me in to model them, so I've been lucky enough to work with students on all kinds of activities, from Math Talks to #booksnaps to even video recording.

   I've always tried to model a "kind transparency" with my students.  If there are strengths or weaknesses, I share them both, but in a way to encourage perseverance, not excuse a lack of effort.  And over the years, I've realized that honesty with students is not only important for your relationship with them, but it's also really beneficial for their own agency.  Somewhere along the way, we as a society formed a pretty solid assumption that students know the importance of their actions without our help, and they can adequately monitor their decisions and thinking without our assistance.  And yea, some of us grew up and were able to pick up what we needed to know through the observation of our family, teachers and other adults.  But it also seems evident that some didn't receive the same opportunities and counsel.  Bottom line is that we cannot wish into our students the importance of knowledge and thought towards their futures.  We have to walk the talk so that they hopefully will too.

    Students don't want to feel foolish or unprepared, and more often than not, they aren't as apathetic as they'd like us to believe either.  So if you show them ways to be better, and encourage that potential, they will respond.  There's a word spreading all over the middle school where I work: metacognition.  I've brought it up in almost every class I've visited, disguising it initially as a way to impress their parents with a large, multisyllabic word.  We talk about the importance of thinking about your thinking.  I show them ways that they didn't even realize they were already using metacognition.  I provide a *very* basic explanation of what the process of metacognition does for your brain, which usually gets me some intrigued but kind of skeptical facial expressions.  (I totally understand their skepticism though; I mean how often does it work that you get physical benefit from essentially doing what you normally do naturally?  It's like losing weight by sleeping just because you roll around and breathe.)  

   After we talk about it we usually do something fun.  If you haven't done a Math Talk before or don't even know what it is, check this book out.  It is still something that I did not do with enough fidelity in my classroom, but any chance for a student to practice explaining their thinking, right or wrong, is productive time.  Plus there are variations of the process you can do that could work in all subject areas, because the goal is just to get kids to consider their processes for thinking and solving problems.  In some language arts classes we have worked on #booksnaps as a way for students to reflect on the effects of reading on their thinking and emotions.  If you want to learn more about it, check out this post by Tara Martin, the teacher that started it all.  
   
   Several years ago the expression "so meta" rose to popularity for a year or two.  I personally can't say it without thinking of That's So Raven (which I didn't even watch--I know, it's weird).  Anyway, it was one of those colloquial phrases that come and go, and when you look it up online today there's still no real agreement on a specific definition.  I never really used it, but I remember hearing it a few times, and at each instance it sounded like it was describing a moment that was "next level cool" or an experience that was relevant or influential on multiple levels.  That was my unofficial definition.  Anyway, this expression has popped up in my head a few times in the last couple months because of the continued use of the word metacognition by myself and others.  I've honestly had to stop myself from trying to "reintroduce" the phrase to the general public.

But I finally get why it was a thing.  There is something so cool about seeing a truly impactful idea or practice take root and grow.  It is absolutely amazing to be able to ask a group of 6th graders what metacognition means and have them immediately answer you, or watch students get excited about reading reflections when they used to outwardly groan.  It is "so meta" to hear students talk about how they realized that voicing their metacognition helps them get better ways to solve problems.  Imagine the "meta" of hearing a learner tell another that the answer isn't as important as the process.  When I think back on those metacognition exercises (see what I did there?), I can't help but feel excited about the places our kids are going.  And I hope that we can continue to help them on their journey too.  That would be "so meta."

Friday, October 27, 2017

What's in a grade?

At my previous school, we started talking about grading a long time ago--several years in fact.  So I guess I have been pondering the idea and necessity of grades for a bit.  To be honest, I was still undecided throughout that debate.  I held a solid anti-process grades position, but past that, I honestly didn't know how I felt about it.  Grades have seemed kind subjective to me as a teacher, though as a student I was obsessed with them.  I mean when I say obsessed I mean I cried when I got my first (of three) Bs in school.  Ridiculous, right?  But that number was so important to me.  And in retrospect, all I can think of is "why?"  At the time it felt that it was my measure of success.

Funny thing is, my success in high school did not transfer over in the same way to college.  Only three Bs in college would have been astonishing.  The set up was different, the rigor was substantial (as it should be), and it was just plain hard.  And I wasn't prepared, not really, even with all my prior success.

Over the summer I read Shift This by Joy Kirr, which I've mentioned several times before.  One of the most memorable chapters in the book was on grading, because it helped me solidify my stance.  Basically, with Joy's help, I realized that numeric grades are completely arbitrary.  What do they even mean?  For some they signify several processes completed successfully mixed with a couple assessments here or there.  For others they may be a quotient of correct responses to available questions that may be related strongly or weakly to curriculum standards.


The point is, the numbers provided aren't standardized in any way, so how can we use that to compare two students in two schools who have received the same grade?

We can't.  We have been and are continuing to use this model, but when we think about it, though it "works," it really doesn't.  Not for everyone.  And our flawed assumption that successful people will just fall in line with our grading arrangement has kept some incredibly bright and gifted people from reaching potentials beyond what we can imagine.  I wonder how many people got Cs and thought they were just ordinary, and so when some inspiration struck them, they just dismissed it because, what could they do about it?


I understand that it's an incredibly hard idea to just stop using numeric grades.  Not only would it involve a ton of new changes that would take planning, preparation and adjustment, but it also has us go against everything we've ever thought about grading in schools.  It's not an easy discussion or decision.  Even those who agree with me on numeric grades disagree with me on how we would implement something more meaningful.  But just because it is hard doesn't mean it's not worth an attempt, or at least a conversation.



When talking to others about this, I've gotten a lot of different protests.  One that comes up repeatedly is what happens to those high school students who use grades to determine class rank, grade point average, and scholarship potential if we do away with numeric grades?  Without those numbers, how can students prove their success or potential worth to universities?  It's another genuinely good question, and it makes me think again back to my experience as a successful high school senior.  What did those numbers provide me?  It helped me get into UNC Chapel Hill, which is awesome.  It did not help me get a vast amount of financial aid, even though I applied for many merit-based scholarships.  It made me feel good because I could do well and get those high numbers.  But looking back on it I feel like in spite of those benefits from numeric grades, I could have shown my worth to my teachers and universities in other ways that didn't require that type of system.  And I also feel like if that system had changed, others may have been able to show their potential too.

To me it boils down to this... numeric grades are not as helpful and necessary as we (myself included) have always felt they are.  What's better?  Not sure yet, but I do know that we don't need to be afraid of the possibility of something that could be better.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dog-tired

I had a conversation with a teacher this past week, who experienced a fairly sad epiphany.  This teacher is a truly wonderful and compassionate educator.  She had started working with some developing readers (developing is the word I like to use to replace "struggling"--thank you Donalyn Miller), and she was overwhelmed with what she saw in this small group.  Once she was able to narrow her focus to one student, she really saw the extent of their difficulty, and it really made an impact on her.

If you have never worked with developing readers in a small group or one-on-one situation in your class as an educator, you really, really need to at least once.  We often make assumptions about our students when they come to us, and we do not frequently enough actually seek to know if those assumptions are correct.  Primarily we believe that our students, for the most part, have come to us with a base knowledge built on from their previous years, so they are ready for our content and instruction.

We know that some students may have "gaps" or "holes," which are basically little pockets of content that they may have missed for some reason or another along the way.  And we often can tell which students that we see daily that really experience some significant difficulties, though we don't really know the depth of it.  It's time to strap on some scuba gear though, because we can't continue to make assumptions that are routinely false.

Now I know that teachers have a bazillion things to do, and already don't have enough time to do it in.  So we prioritize based on how we can reach "the most" students, and do our best to help the others in some way, usually by calling in another professional to assist with the ones who need the most help.  We tell ourselves things like "there's just not enough time" or "there will still be a plan for them to be successful in high school," or my least favorite phrase--"they are just going to be passed on anyway."  I absolutely understand that, and have even uttered those phrases myself before.  But saying those things doesn't absolve us from doing everything we can for our students.  Reading is important.  It is the most important.  The ability to read, or lack thereof, can make an extraordinary difference in a child's life and future, and then in their own children's future.  It's not just a skillset.  It's a measure of confidence and real-world savvy.  And hopefully, for most, it's a pleasure.  So when you cannot read at a level comparable to those around you, it can be tough.


Have you ever tried to do something that was new or difficult for you, and when you finished you were just so tired?  I recently taught myself how to type some code into google sheets to get the cells to do things I wanted them to do.  It took a while, and when I finished my eyes and brain and self were just so tired.  We expend so much mental energy learning about challenging or unfamiliar things that we are often unusually fatigued, maybe even exhausted.

We need to think about this idea in terms of students who are developing readers.  If you are unable to read words with more than one syllable, how do you get through a day where you are expected to know and understand a host of them?  If I, as an intelligent, grown educator, get fatigued by reading things when I can actually read them, how does a thirteen-year-old feel who reads on an approximate second grade level?  They are frustrated, exhausted, drained, dog-tired, and not nearly as successful as they, or we, want them to be.


So here are my pleas:

1) Take some time and listen to one of your students read aloud, especially if they are a developing reader.  It is more than worth the time it takes out of your class.  You may even find a way to help them understand your content better.

2) Remember that your developing readers have more obstacles on the path towards comprehension than others, and an entire day fighting what they struggle with is hard.  If you get frustrated in class trying to help them, imagine how they feel.