Category Archives: publishing

My Kid Just Said (Part 34)

“We had to make a prediction about whether or not the animal in the story would survive, and I said yes, because these guided reading books never end in tragedy.” BB#1, 9.5 years old.

I suspect he’s right about that…

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These Are a Few of My Favourite Links – Education

As a parent, a certified teacher, and a lifelong learner, I obviously feel strongly about education. As a reader, writer, and editor, I have a particular passion for reading: the process, the instruction, and the act itself (not to mention, books!) Here are some articles and blogs that have informed and inspired me recently.

Education

“Boy Crisis” in Education a Microcosm of Women’s Lives

Do Unto Students

Parental Involvement in Education: What Kind? To What Ends?

Why Inclusion in the Classroom Benefits ALL Kids

Too High a Price: Why I Don’t Do Behavior Charts

In This Classroom

Creating the Conditions: A Love of Reading

12 Myths About Education in Finland Debunked

How Do Parent Labels Help?

Lessons from Kindergarten

Join the Chorus Against Reading Logs

8 Ways Parents Discourage Their Kids From Reading

More of my Favourite Links: Homework, Parenting, Sleep, Breastfeeding, Birth

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Reading: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

Reading is a big deal in our house.

Before returning to school for a Bachelor of Education, I worked in-house as a web editor in the publishing industry. I currently edit books and write back cover copy on a freelance basis. Since I graduated, I’ve taken additional qualifications in teaching Intermediate English and Reading. My undergrad is in English and Mass Communication (as is my husband’s), and I also have a diploma in Print Journalism. We have a LOT of books in the house (here’s to boxes of hand-me-downs from big sisters with older children!) My husband and I both love to read. So creating and nurturing a love of books in our boys was a no-brainer.

We’ve read to the boys since they were infants. At eight, BB#1 is an avid reader who reads everything from chess instructions to the Wimpy Kid series, kids’ magazines to novels like The Hobbit. Thanks to French Immersion, he can and does read in two languages. We have a deal when the Scholastic flyers come home: I will buy him French books, and he can choose to purchase English books with his own money.

Just turned five, BB#2 is not quite reading independently yet (at least, he’s pretending he isn’t), but loves being read to. He is excited when his Chirp magazine arrives in the mail, has his own library card, and will bring us book after book to read to him.

So, filling out the reading logs their teachers send home should be no problem, right?

Wrong. Something strange happens when my boys are asked to log their reading or read for homework. They are no longer interested. I have to nag them, either to read, or to write the titles down in the log. I’ve struggled to articulate exactly why that is, but this tweet from a teacher I came across a few weeks back puts it pretty plainly:

“Reading logs make liars of bad readers, annoy good readers, & tells us nothing about their literacy.” @jenmarten

You are probably saying, not all kids are like mine. Not all kids actually want to read or be read to, or have the culture of reading that we have at home. I know this. So how do we encourage those kids to read if we don’t offer rewards, and how do we know they are doing it if we don’t ask them to log their books or minutes? I don’t have the answers, but I do know this: if we offer stickers or pizza or a points system for reading, we’re telling kids that it’s something unpleasant with no value of it’s own. If we tell them they must quantify their reading by logging pages or minutes, we’re saying we don’t trust them, and that we know they wouldn’t actually choose to read if they didn’t have to.

These programs may get kids to pick up books, write them in a log (and maybe even read them), but they are not creating readers. And as @jenmarten suggests, what does a list of book titles a student may or may not have read even tell the teacher about that student’s ability to read, and understand what she’s read, anyway? Likely nothing the teacher doesn’t already know.

Since the boys are already reading on a regular basis, I suppose I could just fill in their logs without telling them. But that feels wrong—like pretending something is working when it’s really not. And in BB#1’s case, though he reads in English every day, he’s more likely to spend an hour reading in French by choice one day, and then not the next, rather than the prescribed twenty minutes a day. While this to me is more authentic and therefore more valuable, it doesn’t look as impressive on a daily log.

BB#2’s log can be of books he’s read, or that are read to him—and there is a small prize for every twenty-five books read. But at the rate we read, we’d be getting a prize every couple of days. And since we clearly don’t need that motivation to read together, well, it just feels silly.

I’m not alone in this thinking. I’ve read a number of articles and blog posts by educators outlining the downside to reading logs. But here’s my question: if we know that reading logs and programs can cause more harm than good, then why are so many teachers still using them? And even more confusing: if what I’m most concerned with is nurturing my children’s passion for reading and interest in learning—if I know that they ARE reading, and that whether or not they fill out their reading logs in senior kindergarten and third grade is going to be meaningless in the grand scheme of their educational lives—why am I so conflicted about this? Why can’t I bring myself to write a polite note saying, in this house we don’t log reading, we just read.

I think I know why. It’s two-fold. And sort of embarrassing. As a teacher, one without a classroom at that, I’m worried about appearing judgmental of other, experienced teachers’ practices. As a parent, I’m concerned those blank log pages will reflect on me—that their teachers will view me as one of “those” parents: uninvolved, unsupportive, ignorant of the value of regular reading.

Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

For further reading. You know, if you like that sort of thing:

You Don’t Have to Read Every Day

My Son is Afraid to Read

Daddy I Want a Book Buck

This post by an administrator suggests how we can get all kids reading, without rewards:

Creating the Conditions: A Love of Reading

I also recently led a discussion on the following article as part of an assignment in my Reading course:

How to Create Nonreaders

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Lost in Transition

So about that impasse. As my tagline says, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” It’s a favourite quote of mine, from a favourite song. I used to sing “Beautiful Boy” to my own (see, the name is making sense now, right?) Being a mom is one thing I’m definitely I’m not conflicted about. But other areas of my life are not so certain right now. And in some ways that has to do with being a mom.

When my boys were born, I was working in publishing, in a job I enjoyed, with people I liked. But after BB#2 came along, something had changed. I thought it was the fact I was no longer working as closely with a familiar team due to a re-org, that I had just tired of the day to day part of a job I’d been doing for several years, and needed to change my role. But really it was me. I tried involving myself in other projects at work and expressing interest in other positions, but there wasn’t a lot of formal movement happening. I thought about approaching my employer about part-time hours,  but I worried that would backfire (in hindsight, I should have at least asked). To be honest I felt a little “stuck”. And I was thinking more and more about how I could make a difference, in my life, in the world, for my children. I was also volunteering in my son’s school, and as a reading tutor, and loving it.

And so I did something crazy. I decided to become a teacher. I applied to teachers’ college, and got in. I actually left my comfortable job after 9 years to return to school at the age of thirtysomething, with a husband, kids, a mortgage. So not like me. But I convinced myself (and apparently my super-awesome-supportive husband) it would all work out. During my student teaching, I was convinced I’d done the right thing—education was now a passion, I loved my students, I could do this.

And then I graduated. It was not a surprise that I didn’t find a teaching job right away. I was aware of the limited job prospects when I applied to school (and was told by more than one person I was making a mistake for going into teaching). But I guess I’d also convinced myself that if I got into school, and was successful, that I would be one of the lucky ones that got a job right away. If I had to supply teach for a few years, that would be okay, great even–considering my husband’s work travel, it might make more sense for me to work on a casual basis while my boys were young, and it would be valuable experience.

Instead, I spent the last school year volunteering in two different schools. I combined this with some freelance writing and editing (benefit of staying on good terms with my former employer and co-workers). After all, I never stopped loving that work, I just wanted to explore a different path for a while. And I thought it was important to keep up my skills and contacts. My ideal was to combine freelancing with supply teaching, have the best of both worlds. But between volunteering, taking additional qualifications classes, being a mom, looking for teaching and freelance work, working around my husband’s schedule, in the few extra hours I had (generally late at night or on weekends) I never felt like I was doing any of my jobs well. I felt as if I’d spread myself too thin, and anytime I was doing one thing, I was thinking about all the other things I had to do.

So here I still am. Stuck in limbo, not sure if I should go back (or if I can), not sure how I can go forward (it’s gone from a bad time to get into teaching to probably the worst time EVER in this province). I feel like I should just pick a path and focus my energy on it, whatever it is, for as long as it takes to get somewhere. But there is that matter of needing a pay cheque in the now. Not to mention I’m so afraid I’ll pick the wrong road, that I can’t seem to close the gate on any of them. Problem is, what if I already took a wrong turn and those gates are now locked behind me?

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