As a teacher-librarian, as I continue to grow (my OLW for 2019) and learn more, I find myself wondering why I do what I do. Back in 2009, we studied the “5 Lenses of Powerful Instruction” and the one lens that impacted me most was “Purpose.” We must know why we teach what we do, and pay attention to how that impacts student achievement. Over the years, several mandated activities in schools (my district and others I had read about) really got my blood boiling (as they say) as I saw the purpose of (literacy) instruction — while driving towards student achievement — as skill/drill, mindless keyboard-clicking towards “success.” “Success” meant “students passing the test,” and more specifically, “the state standardized test.” Now of course, I want my students to pass this test. It is of the utmost importance in school. Passing the test means opportunities flow: more recognition, more choices in classes, less nagging by teachers to “read at your level” or “study more,” etc. Failing the test means consequences await: no recognition (or negative attention), assigned remedial classes (where reading levels are strictly monitored), less choice…
I saw creative, happy students turn apathetic towards their learning, their education (at least, their literacy education). If I mentioned that education is a gift, I saw students saying, out loud, “I don’t care.” I witnessed students giving up, because “it doesn’t matter” if they tried; even if they made an effort, they were not test-takers and they were not going to pass the test (at least not the standardized test that mattered).
My purpose is not to watch students fail. I know that, for sure. So I ask again: “what IS my purpose?”
JOYFUL LEARNING. Yep, that’s it. For me and for all people I encounter every day.
This fall I saw students (and teachers!) cheering during an author visit to our city, asking questions, jumping out of their seats to see better, being invited to take the stage, and telling their friends about the experience. I watched those friends ask for his book in the library after the visit, and even spoke to a student who had lost his personal copy of the book and wanted another one. Also recently, I had a conversation with our ELL coordinator who thanked me for giving a young lady Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Spanish, so she could read it with her family. The student was so happy that our library had books she could read; she continues to check out other Spanish titles and practices her reading (in Spanish and English) daily. Right before winter break, I watched students in an art class create — taking care do make their creation the best it could be — and compliment each other on their end products. Many students told the teacher “thank you” for allowing them this time to engage in a meaningful activity. THAT kind of learning is not measured on a standardized test, but THAT kind of learning DOES raise student achievement. “Studies show…” (This is not a research post, so I won’t go into detail here.)
My purpose (as a teacher-librarian) is to light the way for students to read more, to read better, to enjoy reading…and to be successful and happy citizens of our school and community. My purpose is to facilitate joyful learning for students and fellow teachers. My purpose is set.