“Amanda! Just the person I wanted to see! I have a story you’re going to love.” Mr. W pops into the English office on his prep. We are both pedagogy nerds, and we love the Applied classes we regularly teach. Mr. W teaches math and I teach English, so we often have many of the same students. We like to swap stories and have even managed to create a couple of lessons that overlapped, much to the shock/horror/delight of our students. I’m grinning before he even starts talking.
“So, you have O, right?”
I nod. I have O and four other students for the second semester in a row.
“So, this week has been nothing but trying to get him to pay attention.” Oh, yes, how well I know this. “It’s been his ipod, phone whatever. All week long.”
I am still nodding when Mr. W delivers the twist. “But yesterday, I look up, and what is he doing? He’s reading. I couldn’t believe it. There he is with Harry Potter under his desk. I couldn’t get him to stop. He read for most of the class.”
I wince. “Sorry?” Then I pause, “Actually, sorry not sorry…”
Mr. W gets it. He grins and his eyes twinkle. “But wait! Then, at the end of class, he comes up to me and says, ‘Sorry I wasn’t paying attention, sir, but I’m reading Harry Potter and it’s the first book I’ve ever read without pictures and it’s really good.’ And what could I say? So I agreed. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.”
I am speechless.
Mr W pauses, letting me take this all in, then says, “But to get you back, next week I’m sending him to English with math worksheets…”
I have to laugh, “You can’t fool me. I know you don’t do worksheets.”
He chuckles, “Drat! You know me too well!” Then he leaves the office, and I sit, quietly stunned.
How lucky I am. How lucky to have a colleague who also loves these students, who knows the value of reading, who takes the time to tell me this story, even though he could have seen this as a disruption
How lucky I am that I get to teach so many of these students for a second semester. Having them all year is a real treat for me. I love how we can move past the routines of the classroom and start to reach for deeper learning. They trust me more: they’re more willing to try a new form of writing, knowing that I’m there to support not judge; they’re more willing to let themselves try a new book. I am so lucky to watch this unfold.
I know that reading is really tough for some of my students; the words on the page just don’t quite come together in their minds for various reasons. Daily independent reading is a hard sell. It takes us weeks (months, for some of them) to fall into the rhythm of regular reading. I have to be extremely consistent and firm. I have to really believe that they need to start where they are and that, for some of my students – grade 10 students – that means spending a semester reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Amulet and Bone. These are all good books, and I’ve read the research about reading & graphic novels & developing readers, but I will admit to moments where I wonder if they will*ever* move forward.
And here we are. O is reading Harry Potter in math class. His mother told me that she went out and bought him the whole series. And J has finished his first chapter book and started The Ranger’s Apprentice series; his mom bought him the series, too. And V is on book 5 of Percy Jackson. M has a favourite author (Jason Reynolds!!).
And me? I’m just going to spend this Saturday morning basking in the feeling that I work in a school where we – students and teachers alike – celebrate our work and our success. What could be better than that?