Listen to the wisdom of William J. Broz, as referenced in Penny Kittle’s super-awesome-amazing-fantastic book called Book Love:
“If students do not read the assigned texts, nothing important is happening in your literature classroom–nothing very important to develop your students’ reading and interpretive abilities is happening, no matter how many lectures you deliver, vocabulary words students ‘learn,’ elements of fiction students define, quizzes students take, essay test answers students write, or films you show.” (from “Not Reading: The 800-Pound Mockingbird in the Classroom”)
And Penny writes, on page 15, “I’ve discovered that most teachers know many students aren’t reading…Teachers tell me they think about 20 percent or fewer of their students actually read the literature assigned.”
I know kids don’t read assigned texts. All sane teachers know kids don’t read assigned texts. Yet, instead of figuring out how to fix the problem, they continue to plug forward with what they’ve always done–teach class novels, knowing that 80% of their students are not reading what they’re assigning.
We teachers are smart cookies. We know this. So, now what?
Step One: Identify the problem. Step Two: Find a solution.
Teachers do this a hundred times a day.
Problem: Some kids can’t see the board. Solution: Move the affected kids.
Problem: Johnny keeps slurping his snot back into his head. Solution: Put the tissue box on Johnny’s desk.
Problem: Yesterday’s date is still written on the board. Solution: Change the date.
Problem: Sally’s tampon falls out of her pocket. Solution: Pick up Sally’s tampon.
See? Easy-peasy! But, for some reason (well, I know the reason), teachers do not fix this problem of their students not reading. They know there’s a problem. But the solution is another story.
Here’s why most teachers do nothing: It’s hard work to do something.
I could talk about this topic for days. I’m passionate about teaching reading. It’s why I live and breathe and why my students tell me they think I’m a “little crazy.” But the truth is that it takes a lot of time and effort to develop the kind of classroom where students become lovers of reading. It’s not impossible. But it is hard. Really, really hard. It takes a lot of reading the research, a lot of planning, a lot of books, and a lot of energy.
I know I am not normal. The name of my blog is not just catchy, it’s the truth. I’m not the teacher who keeps doing something that isn’t working or does something just because everyone else is doing it. And I am the kind of teacher who can’t understand why other teachers complain about how stupid and lazy and irresponsible the kids are. We have the same students, and my students are curious and funny and hard-working and thoughtful and insightful and compassionate and a thousand other synonymous adjectives. I want those teachers to see all students as worthy of positive adjectives. Imagine what our schools would look like if all teachers tried as hard as they could to provide the best education for our students based on the latest, tried-and-true (not fly-by-night) educational research.
I think it’s worth it. I think that my job as a teacher is to do the best I can for my students. If I truly want the best from them, how can I give them anything less than my best? Of course I will make mistakes; of course I’m not perfect, but I know that I’m doing the best I can right now, and I will do even better tomorrow. Every kid deserves my best.