Reading and writing is a battleground upon which all elementary teachers toil. It sounds so civilized when said that way. It is a conflict that teachers face every day. Often the battle rages beyond our classrooms. Most cases pit modern or progressive ideas against “I learned it this way and so can my kid.” The struggle that the teachers face is how to balance what is suitable for the students. Most schools have a prescribed method of teaching in their classrooms and it is the teacher’s job to carry out that method. Some teachers are evangelists for programs and will go to their grave saying there is only one way to teach a classroom full of students. If you drill down with teachers their heart is much softer. Most teachers don’t care about what name you call it, as long as students learn to read and write. We often profess we are creating individuals and then turn around and teach them all exactly the same. I was instructed, counseled, and then told the one way I would teach reading and writing. I now admit publicly that I used many methods for different kids trying to match their needs.
I am still amazed at the anger, frustration, and vitriol that come from these battles. I have felt like I was being accused of intentionally trying to hurt the children’s futures if I didn’t do some things a certain way. These accusations came from parents and administrators. I was caught in the middle with no place to turn for help. I still have the faces in my head of students that have done a disservice and not met their specific needs. So far in the previous 35 days, I have stressed the importance and fun. I still stand by that but my biggest fear is that not be doing the student some good. This is where the serious nature of our job is and should be. The foundation of reading and writing is the backbone of every other discipline. I prayed every day that I would do well for my students and with a historic eye, I hope those prayers came true.
There is one phrase I heard as an elementary teacher that I believe: the educational gap is often boiled down to those kids coming to school that come to school with 10,000 books. Either read or been read to the student. That is why it is important for me to continue to push for students to get books for themselves. The value of ownership and the kinesthetic joy of books will never be replaced. The most guilty I have felt recently was not immediately supporting a teacher who was asking for money to support her buying books for kids from Scholastic. I felt guilty because I hadn’t lived my convictions. The extra component was that the teacher is a former student of mine. As soon as I got back around to that Facebook post, I had to act and help. I am also now encouraging everyone to do something. Please consider supporting these causes. It is nothing about the recent controversies about books but about putting books in kids’ hands.