The most recent news about the NAEP reading scores are concerning for sure. The headlines are scary:
“NAEP Scores Show Large Declines in Reading and Math During Pandemic”
“First COVID-Era NAEP Assessment Shows Steep Declines In Mathematics and Reading for 9-Year-Olds”
“Digging Deeper Into the Stark Declines on NAEP: 5 Things to Know”
It is difficult to know the full impact the pandemic has had on our young readers and that can cause some angst for educators. So in times like this, I like to look for hope. I like to remind myself of what we do know and ground myself in the practices that have and will continue to develop and grow lifelong readers. This month I thought I would introduce you to the literacy leaders whom I go to for hope.
Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher
I had read many of Kelly Gallagher’s books as I was teaching sophomores in English/Language Arts, and he really helped me find practical and authentic ways to engage my students in our quest to become advanced readers, writers, and thinkers. I was introduced to Penny Kittle when I encountered the book she wrote with Gallagher called, 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents. Our students, more than ever, need relentless opportunities for real reading, real writing, and real talking in our classrooms. Kittle and Gallagher walk us through their entire year providing day-to-day practices for accomplishing just that. What is so hopeful about their experiences is that we can see how engaged students are and it shows us how hopeful we can be in accomplishing literacy achievement across all our classrooms. You can find more hope from these two by following them on Twitter: @pennykittle and @KellyGToGo.
It is fitting that genius is in the title of Dr. Muhammad’s book, Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework because she is one. Her framework reminds us that skill development can’t be separate from identity and intellect. Muhammad also challenges us to embrace our students’ attraction to criticality and hone their skills at approaching texts through the critical lenses of power, authority, and marginalization. Listening to students do this type of learning will provide all the hope you need as our young people continue to influence the betterment of our society.
The title itself of Cornelius Minor’s book, We Got This. Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be instills hope. Students are craving educators who truly listen to them. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard Minor give us is to not resort to the shorthand of communication when listening to student behavior. For example, if a student enters our classroom as defiant, we need to resist seeing that individual student as the group of 20 defiant students we’ve had in our classroom before. Instead, we need to seek the individual in front of us. After I had children, my lens for responding to student behavior completely changed. I found myself approaching each student with the same loving approach I would want a teacher to approach my children, Andrew and Ainsley. I would think to myself when frustrated with a student’s choice in behavior, “That student is somebody’s Ainsley” or “He is somebody’s Andrew,” and it gave me the patience to not react to the behavior and instead listen closely and coach the student forward.
I encountered Tyler Rablin on his Twitter account, @Mr_Rablin. Every. Single. Post has me saying “Yes!” so you will see him retweeted often from my Twitter account. What I appreciate most about Rablin’s approach to education is that he is all about student ownership of learning and is relentless about finding practical ways to approach that in the classroom. Recently, Rablin tweeted this:
To my exhausted teacher friends with a pile of papers, do the following.
1) Find an exemplar to analyze with students.
2) Develop a method to support student reflection (rubric, checklist, rubric template, etc.)
3) Plan a guided reflection activity (peer or self).
— Tyler Rablin (@Mr_Rablin) October 3, 2022
In a time when teachers are exhausted, Rablin finds a way to acknowledge it AND provide hope through a super practical way to continue the diligent work of student ownership.
I heard Pernille Ripp speak at the Iowa State Reading and Library conference a few years ago. As I sat in the audience, it took everything in me to not stand up and shout “YES! 1,000 times YES!” to every word she spoke. Founder of The Global Read Aloud, author of several books, and practitioner, Ripp is an evangelist for student choice when it comes to literacy. A champion for classroom libraries, a supporter of time to read during school, and an advocate for students to choose whatever they want to read (for school, for credit), she has brought me a lot of hope over the years.
I once heard a friend say that everyone is a leader. We are leaders of others, ourselves, or both. All educators can see themselves as leaders. I highlighted a few of the literacy leaders who give me hope. I am guessing all of you can easily name those around you who give you hope. When you find yourself exhausted, burned out, depleted—turn to the ones who can keep hope alive for you.
Coming soon: Empowered Educators Webinar Series. If you are interested in learning more or participating by sharing stories of how you have been empowered to be innovative in your classroom, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.