Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Difference A Year Can Make #sol15 Day 11


     My daughter, Megan, turns 2 this Sunday.  Last night, I was feeling nostalgic for her little baby self and pulled up some videos from last year.  There was one where she sat in her high chair, trying out the word "cheese" for the first time.  Her vocabulary at 11 months was limited- Dada, cheese, sock.  Fast forward a little over a year and she now sings full nursery rhymes, says long sentences made up of many words, knows all her colors (including aqua).  Where a year ago, she had just a smattering of hair, now her signature trademark is her 2 blonde pigtails.  A year ago, she was just starting to toddle, pushing a toy for support.  Now, she runs, climbs stairs, hangs from rings and walks the balance beam at her Little Gym class.

     What a difference a year makes.

    I was thinking of this in light of our youngest learners in school.  Yesterday, I sat in a meeting before it was my turn to discuss my students, listening to a colleague discuss her struggling first grade readers.  Questions were asked about the amount of words read in an minute, reading level, strategies used and why this little one wasn't making appropriate progress.  Everyone's heart is in the right place, wanting this child to progress as a reader.  I just can't shake the feeling that we are rushing our kids. 

     The bulk of my teaching career was spent in kindergarten, where the abilities varied so much.  Some kids started almost at 6 years old while some were still 4.  Some kids could read books and others couldn't recognize their name.  A teacher's job is to meet kids where they are and help them get to the next level, whatever that might be for that child.  But then we started "expecting" kids to read at a certain level and tying in teacher evaluations and livelihoods to that expectation.  It was a game-changer, in my opinion.  We had no time to spare anymore, no time to give them room to develop at a slower pace, no time for patience and faith that they could do it...in time. 

    I've read that in Finland, the apparent center of educational excellence, they don't start formal reading instruction until the age of 7.  A friend of mine who attended a school for the gifted said the same thing about learning to read- they just didn't start that formal "teaching" until later.  Clearly, that gift of time has been beneficial for the highest achieving. 

     Yet our lowest achieving students are assessed on their reading skills all the time.  Weekly progress monitoring, frequent bench-marking.  Lists of words to read.  The pace set as it is because by the time they are in third grade, they will need to be able to read passages set a 6th grade level on a state test. 

    It doesn't make that much sense to me. 

 I don't see all this frequent measuring making anyone a much better reader.  What if we slowed it all down and gave them some more time? Maybe a year would really make a difference.

I am no expert, I have no doctorate.  I am just a teacher and a mom that worries we are putting a lot of pressure on kids who would be able to do all that we ask....with just a little more time to grow. 
Megan at a year


Not yet 2....but so much bigger!