The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 40



James yells out, during our conference, “I hate reading!”

Crushed by his expression, I looked at him, speechless. After the lesson, we parted ways, both requiring time to process his strong sentiment. In our reading conference the next day, I asked him why he hated reading. James cited a litany of experiences that dashed his reading aspirations. And, apparently, I added to his frustrations daily. Within my mandated classroom workshop, James felt confined and conformed to procedures, rather than reading. I suppose from his perspective, I am lucky he had any desire to read at all.

At that moment, I realized that rather than looking into the eyes of the maturing readers in my classroom and following their lead, I had aspired to fulfill institutional mandates. Rather than fostering trusting relationships with my students, I had been concerned with my own “success” and test results. In an epiphany of sorts, I discovered that I was using reading and passing tests, actions performed by maturing readers, to validate my worth, or value as a teacher more than I was using their development as a reader. I was overlooking their needs for my own teacher-centric priorities and affirmation.

The Evolution of a Reading Workshop

When I first started teaching in 2003, my colleagues and I would be asked at staff meetings, “Are kids reading every day?” or “Are you doing guided reading?” If we answered yes, all was well. At that time, my “reading workshop” consisted solely of guided reading. Students either read books of their choice or guided reading assignments while I met with leveled reading group. We called this independent reading. No one was the wiser. We were left to our own devices; there was no mentoring, no coaching, no collaboration. I stuck with what I knew, guided reading, and established my foundation from there.

As ramifications from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) evolved, the state testing increasingly defined success. I wholeheartedly believed that if my students performed well on the state assessment, I would be validated as a great teacher. Paradoxically, as the number of “proficient” readers in my classroom increased, fewer and fewer read for pleasure or self-driven learning. A handful of students liked to read on their own, but a larger number of students found complete satisfaction with the success they experienced during guided reading and validation from state testing or reading levels. (Stygles, 2012).

More troublesome, I noticed readers waited for directions:

● What book would I assign next?

● What pages needed to be read?

● Can we talk about the reading?

Dependency reigned and autonomy disappeared. The students' reading behaviors justified my generalizations. Jordan (all names are pseudonyms), for example, would skip every other page he read. Taylor would “forget” to clarify. Tamara didn’t read at home because she “left her book at school.” If I did not provide the time, space, and requirements to read, my students did not read. In my workshop, I had (unintentionally) developed proficient, alliterate readers.

During this time, Reading First, a federally funded grant program based on the findings of the National Research Panel (Barone, 2013), became vogue, in my district. Scientifically-based” practices dominated the focus of


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