At times I feel that I am "preaching to the choir" when I stand up on my soapbox and advocate for student choice, time to read in class and teachers who work hard to curate classroom libraries and build community within their walls.
Then, there are other times. Times when I share articles or posts and still hear from many teachers that their districts make them post children's reading levels/ AR scores publicly (by the way, this violates FERPA), they are forced to use basal readers, threatened by bad evaluations and children not being promoted to the next grade level, etc.
I will preface the entire rest of this post by saying this: no one came in to save me, no one offered me the following information on a golden platter before I ruined the reading lives of my then third graders that first year of teaching. There was no one waiting for me on day one of my first teaching position saying "hey, come this way and I will show you how NOT to ruin these kids and any ounce of reading love they already posess." I know what you're thinking, isn't this why we go to college? Isn't this why teachers spend years of their time and loads of their money (they haven't even made yet) on a teaching degree? Well, of course we should learn these things in college, but what I do not recall learning is just how much extended professional development I would need after college to keep my brain fresh and devoted to doing what is best for children. I also do not recall having a solid foundation when it comes to best practice in the classroom.
I am terribly sorry to say that I am here to tell you that you MUST seek out information on your own. You are responsible for your growth as an educator. It is no longer good enough to hide behind the cloaks of THIS IS HOW MY SCHOOL DOES IT, THIS IS ALWAYS HOW I'VE TAUGHT, WE AREN'T ALLOWED TO GIVE KIDS FREE CHOICE READING, MY ADMIN MAKES ME LEVEL MY CLASSROOM LIBRARY, and whatever excuse you have to bring to the table. It is time to put your discomfort aside and be more worried about the kids you are not willing to leave behind.
You may feel that you are the one person in your building with that this does not feel right feeling when it comes to how things are done. Maybe you don't want to rock the boat, or step on any toes or be that voice bringing something up at a staff meeting. I would be willing to bet that if you are scared to speak up, there might be some others on your staff that feel the same way. If you want to change the reading culture in your district or building I have laid out some things that I believe will support you in this most important endeavor.
SEEK OUT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
SHARING RESEARCH & ARTICLES WITH STAFF & ADMINISTRATION
This next piece is one that I practice quite often. I do feel sorry for my colleagues and my amazing principal. When you read something that really strikes you or seems profound SHARE IT! Some of these resources are blog posts, some are published articles and pieces of actual research and some are posts written for different websites from an array of reliable literacy folks. I find it quite helpful to have this little pocket of ammo when asked about my classroom practice and why I'm doing what I'm doing.
SEEK OUT A SUPPORTIVE PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORK (PLN)
This part is vital. It takes a lot of time, energy and passion to keep fighting this good fight. You will need some support. Support from people that just get it. Call them your tribe, your people, your fellow nerds, your PLN, whatever. Just call them, and often.
Author Phil Bildner wrote a rather extensive post about the reading network that is very close to my heart, my #BookJourney crew.
When you start to put yourself out there in a professional sense you will start to see that you and a few others might be posting the same things, maybe you find yourself nodding in agreement or shouting YES as you read one of their posts or retweets. If this is the case, you have found a friend. One that will help you be a better educator and overall, a better human. When you start forming your own community or when you wiggle your way into the KidLit community, amazing things can happen. You start connecting with authors who want to share their books with kids, you start braching out and finding other classrooms to Skype with, you start being mentored by those that care enough to offer you support. We have to reach out to one another because we have to offer support and great care when it comes to developing the next batch of teachers who will go out and set the world on fire.
This is a pivotal task. So get out there and read, write and connect with others. What have you got to lose? Well, besides those terrible worksheets you keep giving the kids, but we want you to lose those! Be brave and put yourself out there. I believe in you and I know that you NEED to do it. The lives of your children kind of depend on it.
Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for additions to this post or if you have more questions. I would love to help!