16 January 2012

Success Is Slow in Showing

I'll jump at any chance to throw in a picture of old books.
Parent-teacher conferences don't usually evoke joy. It's difficult to tell a parent their child is struggling or acting out, and I don't look forward to it. This is also a challenging part of the year because we're preparing for the almighty state tests. The work gets harder for the students, and teachers panic over all the material we have to catch up on and review. It's not a great combination.

However, now that conferences are over, I'm looking at things in a new light. Last week I wrote a post called Educational Matters Continued in which I complained a bit about NCLB. This one test is responsible for measuring how well I've taught all year long. The powers that be call it high stakes. It makes everyone sweat.

Of course I talked with my student's parents about the state test, but we talked about just plain reading too. Independent reading is the most important thing we do. Every day we spend at least 15 minutes reading in class. And, until conferences at about the midway point of the school year, it's hard to show my students, and myself, that it's paying off.

But that's just it, it IS paying off for each one of my students who have decided to read like I've asked them to. Last week I had several conversations that went something like this:

"Do you realize you've read ten books this year?"
"Oh, really?"
"Yeah, how does that make you feel?" By this time both the student and the parent(s) are beaming.
"I don't know."
"Well, you should be very proud. Is it becoming easier to finish books?"
"That's the point!" I'm trying hard not to dance. "That means you're becoming a better reader!"

This is the best assessment I've done all year, and at the end of May, when many of those same students will finish their 20th and 21st book, I will give them a questionnaire to ask some of the same questions. Their success will surprise them, and remind me that growth is slow.

The major problem with this program is that it's so hard to measure, and some of my students won't do the hard work it takes to see this kind of success. This is also why not many teachers feel like they can give their students so much time to read. It's a risk. But for those who do sell out to the hard work, and those I can convince even closer to the end of the year, that reading is worth the time and effort, I will tell myself it's worth the time and effort and continue to do things this way.

I suppose that's the whole point of this post too. I needed to tell myself one more time that it's worth it; that even though it's a grind to get my students to practice stillness and reading every day, that it's paying off.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Parent-teach conferences aren't fun for kids either, even when it's good news.
Sorry, I was sure I was Following your blog! Not sure what happened...

RachelMaryBean said...

I think it's great that you do that. Many will learn that they actually like to read, too. :)

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