Monday, July 6, 2015

Why Young Boys Don't Want to Read Anymore

At my house, we are readers.  Both my hubs and I have matching kindle fires.  We read all. the. time. #forreal.  Sometimes, if we REALLY like what we're reading, we might be reading at the table at a restaurant before we order, instead of looking at the menu.  Yeah.  We're THOSE people. <chagrined look, shrug>
Just recently, my dear friend Tammy Wathen from the Resourceful Apple wrote a really heartfelt post about her challenges with getting her youngest--now a middle schooler to read.

Click HERE to read her post.
The fact is things have really changed.  I started asking my husband about his experiences with reading as a child that contributed to his love of reading and he shared some pretty insightful things with me.  He can't remember actually the process of learning to read, but he remembers the first time he read a chapter book that gripped him. Here was our exchange on this topic.

Me: What is your first reading memory?

Chris: <without pause> Reading Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in third grade.

Me: Did the teacher read it to you?

Chris: <affronted look> I read it to myself.

Me:  <starts looking up the book level on Scholastic> That's a pretty high book for independent reading in third grade.  Do you know the book level? 

Chris: No, what's book level again?

Me: It's how high the book is.  It's a 5.9.  That's almost a sixth grade level!

Chris: Really? <stunned, then proud look>  I didn't know that.  It was a popular book with the other kids, so I read it.

Me: Why do you think you ended up liking it?

Chris:  I think probably because it was about chocolate and candy.

There's a lot here in this interview that I exposed that I think is part of the problem with getting boys to read.  I'm hoping we can dive into some of that today.  I am a child of the 90's, but a teaching product of the 2000's.  I'm data driven, and as clinical as a surgeon about how I craft units and lessons for my students that are both interactive and engaging.  I'm what people would think of as a 'good teacher'.  Here though, you see that Chris and I were not on the same page at all.  He was talking about enjoyment of reading, and I was light years ahead of him in looking at book levels...and thinking about how his teacher was able to achieve that...blah, blah, blah.  For him, and his 8 year old self, it was just about a boy who liked reading about quirky characters and chocolate because his classmates liked it and suggested it.  It's not earth shattering or profound.  So, we as educators need to figure out where we lost a generation of 'Little Chris' and get him back.

This is HUGE!
Often times, we discount things that are wierd, gross, strange and ridiculous as 'babyish' or 'not rigorous' enough for a student to engage with.  I humbly submit that we are making a mistake there teachers.  Let them read the stuff they LIKE!  So what if it's the fifth Minecraft book.  So what if you're tired of Nate the Great?  They are READING.  Chris reads all KINDS of different things now, but that progressed over time, and was HIS CHOICE.  He doesn't ever recall a teacher telling him that his book choices weren't appropriate.  He just remembers that they gave him lots of access to books and lots of time to sit and get into them.  He even remembers his fifth grade teacher reading aloud to him!  For at LEAST a half an hour a day!
Chris grew up in rural Minnesota.  He loved reading books about boys and their dogs.  He loved reading books about boys living in the outdoors.  He said that when he read, he could imagine himself as the boy having adventures.  Here were a few of the books he mentioned reading independently that he connected with.


Never underestimate the power of positive peer pressure.  Kids like to share in the positive experiences of other kids.  What systems do you have in place for students to share books that they enjoy reading?  Maybe in a kindergarten class, it can be a photograph of the book cover and some small tags with the kids names.  They can put their tag on a book that they recommend.  Students can speak with them about why they like the book during centers.  Older students can write book reviews.  I remember when I taught third grade I had a pocket chart system where students could endorse books.  The kids liked it!

As children get older, teachers tend to spend less time reading aloud because there is so much that they have to do that seems 'more important' than reading to the kids.  My husband said that one of the things he recalled that he ENJOYED about school was read aloud time.  It introduced him to authors that he didn't know.  It gave his brain a chance to thing about something other than work and he loved it.  Even in fifth grade!

Give boys lots of opportunities to investigate all different types of reading genres.  They will invest in books that matter to them.  This is not to say that we shouldn't teach reading strategies, but if we give students lots of opportunities to read after modeling good reading...they will start to find things that they want to read.

Remember that today's boys are much more distracted than boys from 20 years ago.  
Help boys find exciting books about topics that they are invested in.  Ask your brothers, your husbands, your uncles what books meant something to them as a kid.  Start there.  Then move forward.  Building a lifelong reader takes time.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Short Term Sacrifice Long Term Gain

We can not have it all.
Let's just start with that.
The idea that we CAN is something that we develop over time.  It's just unsustainable.
In order to have long term gain, we must accept some short term sacrifice.
Some things we are willing to sacrifice in order to be successful, and some things we are not.
These last few weeks, I've read posts from a few bloggers about 'relaxing'.
Interestingly enough...they have been posting all summer long.
Why?  Because they know that the best kinds of teachers spend more time working than 'relaxing'.
In any other industry, the people who are most successful never talk about how often they 'take breaks' or 'relax'.
They talk about drive.
They talk about work ethic.
They talk about sacrifice.
Why then, would we think that within our OWN order to achieve the most success that we sacrifice nothing, yet can have everything?

I believe that becoming the best teacher I can possibly be includes working in the summer.
It includes dialog with other professionals about teaching practice and pedagogy.
It includes going to training or offering them within my field.
It includes sharing blog posts with educational content.
I'll be honest.  Some folks can't handle that kind of intensity.  I used to feel guilty about it.  I used to try to change myself and not talk about work because it made others feel 'some kind of way'.
Then about three years ago, I started to meet the other bloggers that became #mytribe and I realized that there were others out there that were full of the same kind of passion and were completely comfortable with my enthusiasm as well!  And guess what...they work in the summers too!
If there's anyone out there who reads my posts and wants to be like me at're a worker in the summer.  #realtalk #thatisall

Being a successful teacher means that you're willing to take the time to work when others are sitting on the sidelines.  It means you are willing to sacrifice a little bit now, for the long term good of your future students.  For the long term good of your SANITY during the school year! :)

The best time to prepare for your school year is during the summer!
There's all kinds of great professional development that you can get for free online...and ideas abound on Pinterest.
The teachers I love to follow as bloggers work year round.  They share content driven blog posts and ideas that make me excited to start a new day and try something else out.

If you want to get better...if you want to BE a better teacher....
The summer is the time to plan and get things together.
So...get that pencil and clean sheet of paper...let's re-imagine our classrooms together!
I, for one, can't wait!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Finding My Tribe

Read the original post HERE.
This summer at SDE's National Conference in Orlando, I was able to meet Cierra Harris from the blog, Adventures of Room 129.  Recently she wrote a compelling post on some of the misconceptions that relate to blogging and I really wanted to echo her thoughts and add a few of my own.
Cierra is next to me in the picture.  We were joined by Tammy from the Resourceful Apple and
Brenda Frady from Primary Inspired.
I am so thankful for the community that blogging offers me.
I'm a super passionate teacher and within the blogging community, I've found #mytribe

Found this cool sign HERE.
Full disclosure, I have struggled to minimize my passion, and my personality my entire teaching career. I thought getting my National Boards would help me to fit in better.  It really didn't make a dent.   For years I was desperately sad. At one point, I was so miserable, I left the grade level I was born to teach, to move to a community of teachers in a different grade level that I thought might embrace my personality, rather than see it as a liability.  It was the year I made that change that I started blogging and my professional life took the most amazing turn!  I was invited to my first FB group for bloggers about 8 months after I started blogging.  All of a sudden, I realized that I was special, not strange.  That there were others who liked to stay up late and talk about curriculum.  That there were others who thought data was cool and had even more excel spreadsheets than I did.  There were others who took the plunge and shared their stuff on a little website called Teachers Pay Teachers. I could go on and on.

HERE's a post that I love on being an extroverted teacher.  There's a companion post for introverts too!

The relief I felt each time someone else shared their story that mirrored mine started my journey toward healing.  I can't say enough about how rich and full my life has become thanks to the love and support of other teacher bloggers across the country.  Last year, I went to Vegas for the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference.  Many of the girls there I'd not ever met outside of a Facebook group or a Google Chat, but...instantly we connected and have been a source of encouragement to each other ever since.  

Nothing is perfect, but there is so much positive energy within the teacher-blogger world, that for me, it truly drowns out whatever bad might be happening in our profession.
Blogging may not always make you a better teacher, but it has made me a better PERSON.
I am a happier me, because I've found community.
I will tell you though...just because I blog, doesn't mean I'm a superhero.  I find that now that I tell people I blog, or that I sell things on TPT, there are certain expectations that are unrealistic.
Let me introduce you to the STEPFORD TEACHER-BLOGGER.

You know this teacher.  Every blog post she writes, it seems that the heavens open and brilliance falls like raindrops from the sky.  When she takes a picture of her students doing an activity, they are always looking happy and on task.  Every time she makes a classroom purchase, she seems to get the sale.  She wears the cutest clothes.  Her nails are always manicured.  Her hair is never out of place. Her instagram thread and facebook posts seem riddled with happy people that enjoy her you KNOW she has more friends than you.  Her husband adores her.  I'm sure that they are intimate all the time--just hanging from the chandeliers. Her 2.5 children are practically perfect.  Each excelling at academics, deportment and athletics.  Her clothes are never wrinkled.  Her classroom is immaculate.  Her organizational skills are the envy of every self-respecting teacher with eyes. Her pencils are always sharp.  Her pens never run out of ink.  She is on time to every meeting. I could go on and on...
You know her, right?
No. You don't.  You really don't.

 The reality is, you know THIS teacher.  The one that loves her job and works like each year is the last year she'll have that class of students--because usually it is.  She can't blog all the time and feels guilty about it.  She blogs when she can, sometimes, with a baby on her hip while she does it.  Sometimes she only has one picture on her post, because once she uploaded the pictures to put on the blog, she realized that the students desks were messy.  The library area was a disaster, and the carpet still has a jello stain on it from last Tuesday.  So there really was only one good shot.  She posts pictures of happy things on Facebook and Instagram because...isn't that what EVERYONE does?  Who would post sad things?  She often runs late, and is probably forgetful because she's got fifty two bazillion things going on at once.  She's writing curriculum for goodness sakes.  A job that publishing companies hire a team to do...she can create in about 40 hours...on top of her regular course work. Her first pregnancy was great, but she can't seem to get pregnant the second time and she's so very sad about that.  She and her husband don't talk all that much, she wonders if her marriage is in trouble. The Facebook and Instagram pictures probably remind her of happier she just keeps posting them, hoping to get back to that...someday. She's probably this frazzled because she's trying to keep up with the idea of the Stepford Teacher Blogger. 
Who came up with this person anyway?
I think we probably all did...

As a teaching community, we need to strive to be transparent and organic.
I can tell you that there is not much difference between me and someone who doesn't blog, except...a blog.  I have loved seeing bloggers talk candidly about their adoption stories, their infertility stories, picking up their lives after divorce stories...even the death of their husband stories.  All of these things happen in the lives of teachers every day...and we still get up and teach.
I am inspired by those stories, as I am sure you are too.
 I think its the coolest thing when another teacher blogger emails me and put out three products this week...are you okay?  They know that sometimes, I work to cover up when I am sad.  I won't tell you that is everyone's story.
I only share that to say that bloggers are human.
Feel free to offer them suggestions, advice, resources that you made...or that you found.  Remind them that they are special because of who they are and not for the last resource they gave you.  I found myself through blogging.  If blogging is not your thing, maybe you will find yourself through an workout group.  Maybe it will be through a Mommy and me class.  Perhaps your church has homegroups or ladies' Bible studies.  My point is...find YOUR tribe.  If blogging isn't it for you...there is something out there that is!
This kind of community has changed my life and my outlook on teaching!
I can only believe that if we all found #ourtribe we would all be better for it!

We're really not all that different you and I.
Thanks for coming on this little journey with me.
It was a bit scary to be this honest.
Glad you stuck it out.
Thanks! :)