I have worked for some good principals, but the one I had 5 years ago was undoubtedly the best. She always put her trust in the teachers that she hired and always saw us as humans first and employees second. When tough conversations were present, she would always say “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Most times, I sheepishly said no then I would turn and just stay silent knowing it was not worth the fight.
But now, I have a situation where I have discovered that I will indeed choose to die on this hill.
The issue is small for most teachers in the education world, but it means everything to this reading teacher. The issue: how we prepare students for reading tests.
Our reading education has come down to test passages and standardized tests and my feelings always have and will be that building lifelong readers comes first. I have done my job if students leave my class loving or tolerating books more than when they walked in. I regularly incorporate reading time in my lesson plans and only read children books so we have something to talk about. My hero is Donalyn Miller and her thoughts give me passion.
But doing this kind of reading means test scores take time to grow. In the beginning, the scores are low because we are not taking test prep passages all day and getting good at tests. We.are.reading! Shocked I have to defend the act of reading to teach reading, but I have literally planned with teachers that have a lesson plan of legit reading passages all.day.long. Well, good for you that your scores are good, but sucks your kids now hate reading.
So spring forth to this week where I have a lengthy conversation with a colleague encouraging me to test prep, do a lengthy list of reading strategies geared for only making them more tired while reading and to read the questions first before reading the passage so we can improve test scores. Forget comprehension or reading for meaning…what was I thinking? We are about passing tests. I sat in shock and explained that some of your strategies will exhaust my advanced readers as they do their magic without all that extra work (aka they read a lot) and my struggling readers may never finish the test. Then while they are thinking about the questions they just read, they are missing the main idea and inferences required to answer the questions and evaluate the author’s craft. But I only have a Masters in Reading, A Master Reading Teacher certificate, 18 years in education with all 18 years getting 80% or above passing STAAR in areas of Texas with high poverty rates so what do I know? (For real, despite my multiple years of reading success-last year over 90% grew from the year before…I am still getting this talk.)
So I sit here and ask myself change my plan to fit their (admin) needs and completely destroy myself as an educator and lover of literacy…maybe the scores will go up or maybe not…or stand firm in my belief that tests will come and go but lifelong readers will not.
You can find me dead on this hill.