When English goes to Math: Slice of Life 7/31 #SOL20

“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?


15 thoughts on “When English goes to Math: Slice of Life 7/31 #SOL20

  1. I love this post. Everything about it. I especially love that Harry has come to the rescue again. I teach third grade and have read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud to my class every year since the book came out. That’s a lot of kids! Every year Harry becomes the hero of our class. Parents have told me that it was the pivotal book in their non-reader’s life. After Harry, their children professed to loving books. I also firmly believe in series books. Hook them on a book they love and offer them 3, 6, 11 more to read! And I love that you and your colleagues are in it together, championing on your charges, supporting the quirky ways in which they grow.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Like Suzanne, I also love everything about this post! Student/colleague celebrations are the moments that keep us going. I have a student who entered the school year speaking/reading/understanding virtually zero English. Yesterday, her homeroom teacher said that when this student came back to their room after seeing me (reading intervention) she shouted to the class, “I am a reader! A real reader!” You’re right…there’s nothing better.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can feel your joy discovered in this moment and it is one that you have needed for a long time now. I am so happy that that this moment happened but long for amplificiation beyond the “slice” and individual encounter.

    Your use of the short statements, “I nod. I wince. I am speechless.” work so beautifully as the markers between the action and dialogue. Thank you for a great story read over coffee this Saturday morning 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is real solidarity! I know we use that word to mean we are standing together during labour disputes, but for me it means that the math teacher and the English teacher are on the same page helping the same kids. Hooray for a math teacher who doesn’t get mad about reading in his class!! Hooray for books in a series! Hooray for Harry Potter! And HOORAY for high school teachers who push kids to become readers instead of lamenting that the elementary teachers didn’t do their job and moving on.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This anecdote and the update about what students are reading is a warm hug for my teacher heart. Love this comment: “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.” Yes, empowering readers works, giving students choice works. Hold on to this memory for the days the doubt creeps in.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Feedback matters. Your colleague is so kind to share this story and “tolerate” the reading. I love the students admission, about this being the first book he has read. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re changing lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Chills on this beautiful, sunny Saturday. We can all hope that our students will get there when they’re ready to get there, but it takes a village and people like you and Mr. W who trust that they will. I have found, with my 3rd graders, that the pivotal books are The BFG and the resulting love of all things Roald Dahl and the Alvin Ho series. These “hook” my reluctant readers every time, and some come back to tell me about it. I love the beautiful twist here-not listening in math class because he couldn’t stop reading Harry. Pure magic.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The feeling of accomplishment after hooking one reader is immeasurable. The craft of this sentence jumped out at me and I’m going to use it as a mentor here pretty soon: “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.” Imagine! A colon AND a semicolon in one sentence! Love!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is what it’s all about. Congratulations to you and to O. I remember reading your post from early in the year, when the independent reading time was such a chore for them. Keeping at it has certainly been worth it. I have a student who’s been a reluctant reader all year, but I feel like he’s right on the verge now. It’s my dream to catch him reading at the “wrong” time. I’ve got 3 1/2 months. This post gives me hope…and more motivation.


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