For the last few months, I’ve been participating in lots of discussions about the podcast, “Sold a Story.” And I get it. I LOVE a good podcast like no one’s business!! Especially when there is a hero (SOR) and a villain (Heinemann, Calkins, and F&P) and sinister plot (ignore the science!!) and a sympathetic victim (school children!)! It makes for excellent listening!
Now, contrary what some folks on Twitter think, I am not “against” SOR. But, I’m not “for” it either. But, I’m also not “for” the Units of Study. And, I’m also not “against” Lucy Calkins either.
Does this mean I’m wishy washy? Nope. It means I just trust teachers best.
I am so grateful Amber saw my post on the reading wars and shared her podcast with me! These two educators share my thoughts/feelings exactly around the “Sold a Story” hoopla. They also reminded me of why I trust teachers over any “expert”/scientist/curriculum designer/business person/etc.
Again, to be clear… it’s not that I don’t support the “science” of reading (and I put the term science in quotations not to be flip, but because I don’t believe that branding like that belongs in education. There is no “science” of math/history/science/phys ed/etc. so there shouldn’t be one for reading. It’s a gimmick!) It also doesn’t mean that I completely love whole language or balanced literacy. My concern is that teachers are PARTICIPATING in an argument that is contrived by the media and politicians because it makes a good story. It’s a waste of valuable time and energy. This isn’t our fight. And if we get real honest with ourselves, and listen to each other, and *trust* each other, we will see that.
I know NOTHING for sure about reading instruction except that nothing is FOR SURE. But here are some things I’m thinking about…
1.) The lack of a common vocabulary is crippling. Much of the reading wars involve people misunderstanding each other’s use of the terminology of pedagogy and curriculum. I find myself arguing with people only to realize that we are both saying the same thing, yet have different or even opposite ways of saying it.
2.) Teacher planning time needs to quadruple. Literally. We need HOURS a day to plan, and to plan with EACH OTHER in order to create the lessons and deliver the exact right balance of instruction our children need. Without it, we will spend a lot of our day just assigning tasks and monitoring kids till they finish rather than helping them grow academically.
3.) We need to be real about the expectations we put on kids. While they might be developmentally ready to master a standard at a given grade level, we need to adjust for other mitigating factors that also affect their learning. This doesn’t mean we LOWER our standards, but rather make purposeful adjustments. And we need to draw a hard line with society that says, “Hey… you want kids to make academic strides? Then let’s do something about poverty, inequity, health care, child care, unemployment, etc. Because teachers aren’t miracle workers.” You know what my biggest frustration is right now in education? Attendance! Since Covid, absenteeism is BANANAS. Even if I did have the “silver bullet,” how can kids learn if they aren’t at school?
4.) Teachers are the experts. Full stop. Yes, I realize that we are woefully underpaid, continually mocked and disrespected by those outside education, and are forced to swallow professional development and use curriculums from folks who haven’t set foot in a classroom since they were in school, BUT we can’t forget that WE KNOW THE MOST STUFF. We need to trust ourselves and each other! If we are united, we can advocate for ourselves and our students in powerful ways and change our entire narrative.
5.) There will never be absolutes in education. At least, not in any lifetime soon. Kids – humans, really – just come with so, so, so many variables. Yes, you can make some decent predictions, but that’s about all. So be wary of the hard-swinging pendulum.
Okay, your turn!! What are you thinking about?!