I am always amazed at the power of the written word. It can instruct you, inform you, make you smarter, and even change your mood! I think the power resides in the mystical interaction created when the words on the page intersect (sometimes collide) with the mind and heart of the reader. No reader comes to a book without some sort of experience by which they will interpret a text. Because we are all so different we will all have different interactions and responses to the same story. Perhaps this is one of the things that makes teaching reading so inherently interesting and yet so challenging.
|Here's my post in wordle form. Thanks to Beth at Thinking of Teaching for the idea!|
In reading through the chapter, I found myself moved by the story of a young teacher, ripe with inspiration and hope, eager to impart the gift of literacy and literature to her first class of students. I related easily to the ups and downs she expressed in the first few pages. My heart truly sank as I read the "veteran" answers given when Donalyn Miller questioned the mismatch between teaching philosophy (ie: “I walked into my classroom convinced I would share this passion with my students. No matter what else I had to offer them, I could offer them my enthusiasm for books.") and the actual teaching practices the classroom (ie: "Horrified, I recognized that my classroom has become the same kind of classroom I reviled in my memories of school - a reading class with no place for readers.”) during her first year of teaching.
Here is her recounting of that event...
“Distraught, I took my observation to the more experienced teachers at my campus, asking for their help. To my chagrin, this is what I heard: ‘The children are just lazy.'... 'They will do the minimum to get by.'... 'Most of them hate to read.'... 'I have to drag my students through every unit.' ” After this disappointing interaction Donalyn Miller decided a different response to the problem had to be found so she asked one crucial question...
“What was I going to do about it?”
This may be one of the most important sentences in the first chapter, because it demonstrates the fortitude and daring to think differently about things, and the courage not to conform to the “normal” teaching practices which surrounded her. This simple and novicely-wise (yes I just made up a new word) act reminds me of a quote I recently read in What Great Teacher’s Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most by Todd Whitaker
This is the truth that strikes me most about The Book Whisperer. It is the story of a teacher that knows people are the most important element of the teaching equation. Additionally, she appears to have the strength and determination to find an authentic way to address the needs of the people (students) who eventually do determine the quality of the classroom reading program.
No doubt The Book Whisperer has dropped into my life at a most opportune time! I work in a state that received one of the first federal Race to the Top grants. During the past year, state and local educational entities have drafted sweeping changes to a teaching system that has held hands with the “status quo” for some time. These significant changes will be introduced and implemented in the 2011-12 school year. As a teacher, I am intimidated by the thought of a "fabulously frequent" level of scrutiny on my teaching practices, curriculum delivery and student test scores. But as a life long learner and data junky I am excited for the opportunity to do things differently (recording the results) and letting the methods speak for themselves.
For this reason, I am most curious about how Donalyn Miller will weave together this truth... “ On those rare opportunities when I allowed my students to choose their own books their interest in completing assignments was sparked...." with this reality...“ I did not know how to design instruction that would accomplish the goals of my curriculum and still allow students to make choices.”
|Click the picture for a schedule!|
Check back soon for Chapter 2... Everybody Is a Reader!