Thursday, October 25, 2018

When We Make Reading a Competition

Unlike most of my family members, I am not a competitive person.  Competition does not motivate me, nor does it make me attempt anything with more effort. However, I know the same cannot be said by others, even some of my students. It seems like intrinsic motivation is becoming more difficult to find in my classroom.

I ask why? Why do my students expect something in return for their educational progress? Why isn't learning something new worth their time and effort?

With the first grading period recently ending for many of us, I began to see prizes or rewards or incentives being doled out for reading. I saw the results of reading becoming a competition.

I know that competition motivates some students. But when reading becomes a competition, we do not create lifelong readers. We create students who get to go eat lunch with the principal or go on a special field trip or get a pizza.

When reading becomes a competition, our students have their eyes on the prize, not the lifelong rewards of being a reader.

When reading becomes a competition, we create winners and losers.

And when it comes to reading, no one should ever be labeled a loser.

When we hear experts in the field say that volume matters, and then we hear teachers who make reading a competition say, "But look how much they are reading" how do we defend that? Because in some convoluted way, they are correct - students are reading.

Yes, we want students to read voluminously. Yes, we know a relationship exists between reading volume and reading achievement. But when we attach reading volume to a competition, no one wins.

For many well-meaning teachers, this is the way they have learned to motivate readers. I don't blame them for their efforts.

If you are a reader of my blog, or a Twitter follower, then I know we have many of the same values and ideas. Let's try to encourage these teachers to try something different. Let them know that...

When we talk about books, we create intrigue and curiosity.

When we live and share a reading life, we show students how reading can change us.

When we share the joy of reading, students have a better chance of becoming lifelong readers.

And isn't THAT the ultimate prize?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Looking at the Heart

Deadlines. Seems I've had many of those these last few weeks.

But this morning, with visions of fall break swimming in my cereal bowl, I felt like I could breathe a little easier, take things a little slower. Lesson plans are done for our two-day week, grades are finalized for the first grading period. I seem to be caught least for the moment.

My fingers feel the itch to write something besides my Master's work and my research study. I thought maybe a blog post might be on the morning agenda, seeing how it is the National Day on Writing.

As I clicked on my own blog, I found my way to Ruth Ayres' blog. In her blog post, she wrote about her encounter with A.S. King at a literacy conference this past week. It seems they both presented on similar topics, as Ruth also presented about kids in trauma and how stories heal. Once again, her words went straight to my heart.

Then I saw this tweet over in her sidebar. See those words, "what if we looked at the heart instead of the behavior?"  I read those eleven words, and I lost it. The release of the frustration and the helplessness and the feelings of defeat from the past few weeks just took over.

Then came the guilt, exposed by these same words.

I have students who come from hard places:   places without love and loved ones, places without safety, electricity and food, and places without hope.

I know that.

But lately, I have been looking at their behaviors instead of their hearts.

I have been taking the easy way out.

I have been blaming them.

I have been looking outward and not inward.

...and that needs to change.

I wrote a post about how everyone needs a Ruth in their lives. I still believe that, but I think it is time to change that statement to "How can I BE a Ruth?"

Thank you, Ruth, once again for sending your words out into the world and for opening my eyes and my heart in those moments when, yes, I need a Ruth.