Why I Teach – Empowering Students Through Literacy Development
"I hate reading." Said Sally (not her real name) mutedly.
I looked at Sally, an 8 year old grade 2 student, and asked, "why do you hate to read?" She thought about it for a minute, and replied, "because I'm not very good at it."
Sally was a struggling reader. She had difficulty reading most simple CVC words. She was taken out of her regular class and put into a reading intervention program with the LST (Learner Support Team) of her school. After almost three months with no apparent improvement in her reading, Sally's mom – now desperate to help her daughter – brought her to my reading classes. I work with students of all ages. Some are younger preschool children, and many are older struggling readers just like Sally. Helping struggling readers to become confident and fluent at reading can be challenging at times, but it is also the most rewarding.
Sally's mom told me Sally was very resistant to reading, and had no motivation to read at all. In her own words, "Sally was afraid to read. She was afraid to be wrong."
In my initial assessment, I watched Sally labor over each word and make haphazard guesses. About a third way through, her voice trailed off in frustration, and she was tired of working so hard but accomplishing so little. I understood her frustration. "It's okay," I patted her on her back and said, "I know just what to do to help you read better, and I've helped lots of other kids like you to become much better readers."
I saw a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
The brief assessment told me that Sally struggled with alphabetics, learned incorrect pronunciation of many sounds, and also lacked phonemic awareness. Without remedying these issues, Sally was not going to become a proficient reader. The fact of the matter is, Sally is not the only student dealing with these deficiencies when it comes to reading. I find that it is a recurring theme where many of the struggling readers I work with lack basic letter knowledge, lack letter to sound knowledge, and also lack phonemic awareness.
Together, we worked hard in these areas, and Sally made a genuine effort. She began to develop a real understanding of how English works as an alphabet based language. Learning proper sounds and knowing what to do with the sounds gave her confidence and motivation to read, and to read well. One day, after about four weeks of reading sessions, Sally's mom told me that Sally's teacher commented on how well she was progressing with her reading. After about two months, Sally even started reading beginner novels, and was reading on her own. Sally's mom told me that Sally had a real boost in her self-esteem, and I could also see the continued growth in Sally's self confidence in her reading abilities.
Several months passed by. During the Christmas holidays of that year, I received a card that said, "thank you for teaching me to read."
Sally is one of the many struggling readers I have taught over the years, and seeing them blossom into confident readers puts a big smile on my face every time. I have received many thank you notes from my students and their parents, but I teach not because of these thank you notes.
I teach because I want to empower my students to reach their full potential, and because developing proficient reading skills leads them down a path of a brighter future.