Today I am wondering about a page I read from Richard Allington’s book, What Really Matters in Response to Intervention. Chapter 1 is titled “Why Struggling Readers Continue to Struggle” and the captivating sentence on the page reads…“Most struggling readers never catch up with their higher-achieving classmates because schools create school days for them where they struggle all day long.” Wow!
My curiosity is…could that be true? Do we really do that? If so, unintentionally of course!
Our first instinct may be to become defensive about this statement and to rebuke what he says. We may list examples of how that is not true in our own classrooms. In short, our bristles are up!
But let’s move beyond that. Let’s not defend but let’s come to a place where we seek to understand what he is saying. Join me for a moment…
Name the students you have in your classroom, school building, etc that are struggling readers. Jot down their names on paper so that you can get a good image of them. Now, what does their day look like from their point of view? Perhaps they get pulled out of the classroom for 20-30 minutes a day to receive interventions for their reading struggles. Chances are the interventions are right at their level and they will feel quite successful with their work. But what are they doing in reading…math…science…word work…social studies? That pull out time ends up being 5% of their academic day. What happens the other 95% of the day? Are they at a place where they are not struggling during that time?
Could there be some validity to this statement from Allington? “No”? Awesome! Your students are so fortunate to have you as their teacher and as their coach for the year.
Could the answer be, “Sometimes”? If so, what would it take to shift our day so that their day is not a day of obstacles and difficult learning? How would things be different for the students? What would it take on our part in terms of planning, preparing, and assessing?
I don’t ask these questions with assumption that teachers are doing something wrong. On the contrary, teachers are experts at teaching and learning. I encourage us to think about this question with a growth and open mindset. Lucy Calkins once said, “You are not growing if you are not uncomfortable.” This question may cause some discomfort, but it will be worth it to explore.