As a student, I always enjoyed reading and being read to, but I also vividly remember a period in my life when reading was a struggle. For the longest time, I thought I was the one to blame; that maybe I didn’t try hard enough or maybe I just wasn’t meant to be a good reader. However, while traveling down the path to becoming an educator, I’ve learned more and more that it’s our job as teachers to provide instruction that meets the needs and abilities of all students, especially when it comes to reading. Literacy is something that any individual can learn, develop, comprehend, and enjoy. However, the way a child inherits these qualities and a love of reading is through effective reading instruction and more importantly, through a teacher that values reading.
As a child, an adult holds our hand to help us write and reads to us continuously at school and before we go to bed. The support and scaffolds that we receive in literacy eventually start to decrease, and then it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not it’s worth trying. However, reading and writing should not feel like a struggle. It should feel like a new opportunity to experience, imagine, or create something wonderful. As teachers, it’s not only our job to help our student’s write letters or read the words on a page, but to foster a love of literacy. Literacy shouldn’t be about levels, rather, it should focus on discovering what each individual enjoys and providing them with the tools they need and the experiences that make them want to continue to grow and develop as readers, writers, and thinkers.
As a literacy teacher, my goal is to help all students develop a love for reading and writing. Not all students come to school with the tools, background knowledge, or even language that supports their literacy development. However, I believe that all children, regardless of disability or language difference, can become life-long readers and writers. To support all students in literacy, they need to be met at their level and encouraged to push through any challenges they face. Student’s also need the opportunity to select and read high-interest texts. According to Freeman and Freeman, “If one goal of reading is to help students value reading, it is crucial to connect them with interesting and imaginative texts” (2000, p.43). When students, like myself, start to see reading as difficult, boring, or even impossible, it’s because they’ve lost interest or haven’t been provided with experiences that show the joy of reading.
In my classroom, I want my student’s to be excited and passionate about reading and writing. I want them to learn at their own pace and be provided with the supports they need in order to be and feel successful in literacy. Frank Smith, the author of Reading Without Nonsense explains, “children shouldn’t all be expected to learn to read at the same time or at the same rate or from the same materials, for the simple reason that children are individuals” (2005, p.151). I strongly believe in differentiation and the importance of not only meeting students’ strengths and needs, but also their interests.
Literacy is everywhere. It’s how we communicate, learn, educate, navigate, and develop has human beings. As teachers, it’s our job to ensure that all of our students our provided with high quality, differentiated literacy instruction, choice, and authentic reading and writing experiences. In becoming a literacy coach, I hope to provide my students this and so much more. I want them to become life-long learners and thinkers, that continue to grow through literacy.
- Looking Backwards: Looking back, I’m so thankful that I chose Hunter College to complete my masters in literacy. I’ve been fortunate to have incredible professors who share and can relate through their own expertise and experiences. When I walked out of my first class, EDLIT735 with Professor Ebe, I had already loved and felt a passion for literacy. All of the classes I’ve taken thus far have helped me grow, not only as a teacher, but as an individual. In some, I first experienced the literacy skill, strategy, or technique as a student in order to discover the best way to teach it. In EDLIT733, I wrote about my personal life with passion and excitement. I kept a journal to jot down anything that came to mind, whether I was riding the train home from school or sitting at home on the couch. In EDLIT732, I created a children’s book based on the make-believe stories my dad used to tell me before I went to bed. These experiences showed me that literacy is so much more than simply teaching reading and writing. It’s being able to help students see the purpose of literacy. That literacy is a means to communication, creativity, imagination and so much more.
- Looking Inward: When I look inward, I reflect on how much I’ve grown as a teacher and learner. Before going to Hunter, I hadn’t had much experience working with English Language Learners (ELLs). While taking EDLIT730, my passion for working with these students grew immensely. With all the knowledge I had gained from listening to my professor and reading texts such as Between worlds: Access to second language acquisition by Freeman and Freeman, I wanted nothing more than to provide my field work student with everything she needed to be successful. However, the more I learned, the more I realized that the school wasn’t providing her with the first language support that she needed to foster her second language acquisition. This experience showed me that I need to be more than a literacy teacher for my students, I need to be an advocate. As a teacher, I need to ensure that all students, regardless of their first language or disability, are provided with best practices when it comes to reading and writing instruction.
- Looking Outward: My experiences and learning here at Hunter have impacted my teaching and my students’ learning. Currently, I’m working in a second grade Integrated Co-teaching (ICT) classroom, as a 1:1 Special Education Teaching Assistant for a student with Down Syndrome. Within the ICT setting, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a variety of students because of Hunter. In EDLIT733, I worked with three different writers, whose abilities ranged from struggling to most fluent. Through analyzing their work, assessing their strengths and needs, and conferencing with them independently, I was able to identify how I could best support them as a literacy coach. This, in turn, helped me start to develop an image of what I wanted the writing process to look like in my own classroom.
- Looking Forward: Looking forward, I hope to empower, challenge, and connect with my students through literacy. As a 1:1 Special Education Teaching Assistant, I can only do so much in a classroom that is not my own. My next step, as aspiring literacy teacher, is to look for a job that allows me to continuously implement and utilize what I’ve learned here at Hunter. It’s difficult to be in an environment that you can’t control, especially when you know how impactful the classroom environment can be on a student’s literacy learning and acquisition. As I look forward, I can’t wait to create a classroom where children feel successful as a reader and writer. I can’t wait to model and instill passion a passion for literacy. As a teacher, I also can’t wait to have the opportunity to gain insight, tools, and techniques that can be incorporated on a daily basis into my classroom.
Freeman,D. & Freeman, Y. (2000). Teaching reading in multilingual classrooms.
Smith, F. (2005). Reading without nonsense. New York: Teachers College Press.