Reflections on Readicide. . .

Sitting here the morning after our four-day conversation with Kelly Gallagher on how ineffective reading practices are harming the kids graduating from our schools, I’m trying to sort out exactly what it is that I’ve learned.

Like any good opportunity for growth, I suspect that I’ll be mentally wrestling with this issue for weeks, but here are some initial thoughts that I know I’m going to hold on to:

I’m not alone:  Coming into this conversation, I was pretty embarrassed about my own instructional decisions.  You see, I have changed what it is that I do in my classroom in an attempt to produce results on standardized tests—and I feel horrible about it.  My decision was based on the pressure that I seem to face each year when it’s discovered that my students have the lowest scores on the hallway, but testing pressure is just plain difficult to ignore in today’s accountability climate.

From the sounds of it, dozens of other teachers are struggling with testing pressure at any given time.  While that should probably leave me saddened or angry, at least I know that I’m not alone.  Readicide is real—-and it requires a collective response because it’s an issue affecting schools in every corner of our country.

That leaves me confident that practitioners and parents working together might just be able to build enough political will to drive change.

Readicide is a community—not a classroom—issue:  If you go back and look at the comments that I leave throughout our conversation with Kelly, I ask the same question a dozen times:  If the solution to Readicide depends on individual teachers taking individual actions, then can we really count on seeing scalable change across schools and communities?  After all, when decisions are left up to individual teachers, we’re virtually guaranteeing that some students will be left behind while others will benefit depending on which room they’re assigned to in August.

For me, that means any attempts that we make to improve reading instruction have to be systematic.  Learning teams working together need to examine the kinds of opportunities that their students have to interact with text.  Media specialists have to design ways to create book floods for every classroom.  Principals need to decide just how much professional freedom and flexibility that they want to afford the instructional experts in their buildings, and parents need to make sure that school efforts extend into the community.

Ending Readicide is one of those issues that depends on everyone—not just classroom teachers.

Leadership–as always–remains the forgotten key:  In an overlooked comment near the end of our conversation, a participant named FlitterFly mentions how important the support and modeling of her principal has been in driving change in her building.  That comment has been lodged in my brain for the past 24 hours because I realize exactly how true it is.

Here’s what I mean:  School leaders have been sending mixed messages about reading instruction for the past decade.  “We’re all reading teachers,” they’ll say while cutting student access to electives and slashing the time that students spend in social studies and science.  “Sustained Silent Reading is important,” they’ll say while sitting behind their desks answering email during their building’s collective reading hour.  “We care about more than test scores,” they’ll say while panicking when numbers are published by the press.

Until building principals, district superintendents and local policymakers buy in to the idea that we’re killing reading, nothing is ever going to change.  And that’s frightening.

Now it’s your turn to reflect: If you downloaded Readicide or stopped by our conversation this week, what lessons are you walking away with?  What ideas resonated with you?  What do you still need to wrestle with?

Most importantly, what do you plan to do TODAY to improve reading instruction in your building or in your community?  We can’t just walk away from this conversation and return to business as usual, can we?

On a side note:  While commenting is now closed, know that our conversation will be available for viewing until the end of time!  You can share the link—-found here—-with anyone at any time who you think needs to learn a bit more about what effective reading instruction should look like.


4 thoughts on “Reflections on Readicide. . .

  1. Catina

    I’m struggling with two things:
    1. As you alluded to in your comments, I’m struggling with how to handle other teachers who don’t believe what Readicide suggests. It’s great to make a difference in the life of my students, but heart wrenching to family, friends’, and others’ children being taught to the test. I honestly don’t worry as much about my son: I read in front of him, with him, and at almost 4, he can recite his favorite book, make inferences, and relay plot. He loves to look through books, pretend to read, and to listen to books!
    2. I’m also reminding to constantly keep myself in check. It’s easy to label others as wrong. It’s much more difficult to continue to reflect and work on myself! I do read a lot, reflect a lot, and always try to grow. I’ve been reminded many times, though, that the very colleagues I don’t agree with have individual strategies or beliefs that help my teaching.
    SO, it’s a yin and yang thing: continue to teach in the way I know best, continue to grow, continue to try to influence others to teach and learn better(based on research), continue to value others (no matter if I’m completely in agreeement with them or no).

  2. K. Borden

    Mr. Ferriter:
    What I observed as a parent eavesdropping on the conversation was a collection of motivated and engaged educators exchanging thoughts, questions and ideas on the topic of reading instruction.
    This will pinch (and as one commenter noted pinch more given I am not a teacher), I also noticed how small that collection of motivated and engaged reading instructors was. I have no doubt that everyone who enters teaching wants to impact the lives of young people. I also recognize that this is one forum of many, thus the conversations likely occur otherwise. My question to you, is do they? Is there really serious self reflection and systematic evaluation actively occuring?
    In our system there are over ten thousand teachers, are ten percent (1000) actively reflecting and engaging with the goal of improving instruction?
    Are the handful of you who participated representative of more silent majority or something else?

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Clix,
    No joke—one of my favorite parts of this conversation was discovering you! Your comments stretched my thinking times ten, so I’m looking forward to learning more from you in the future.
    What makes your comment so interesting to me is your first reaction was to lay the “Shuusshhh” on ’em, huh? That seems to be hard wired into us teachers.
    Thank goodness that those students were in your room, where you’ve got a set of reins on the Shuuussshh reflex! Otherwise those students would have had another negative experience with reading.
    I wonder how many other teachers would have made the same decision.
    Rock on,

  4. Clix

    *grin* Drat! I was going to add one quick thing – during SSR (self-selected reading) in first period today, I heard some whispering, and so I was pretty annoyed when I looked up because this is MY READING TIME TOO DARNIT! But I ended up not saying anything to the whisperer, because he was passing his book to another student, saying, “here – you gotta read this part!”
    Seriously. I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. YAY! YAY READING!
    PS: I’m having trouble hearing Kelly’s last comment on the final slide. I can hear everything else, but that one doesn’t play for some weird reason.

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