Not only that school board members and administrators must contend with thinking about returning students to school buildings in the face of the COVID variants this fall, but also that dyslexia laws and critical race theory are on the forefront. There were many theories, instructional methods, and commercial programs for teaching reading and writing over the decades, beginning with Look-Say, Phonics (bottom-up), Language Approach (top-down), Simple View of Reading (phonics first + language = reading), Balanced Literacy (phonics, language, & comprehension), and Complexity of Reading (multiple identities, languages, linguistics, and literacies). And not only that politicians, community members, parents, and educators argue over “the best” way to teach reading and writing along with the need to screen for dyslexia, there is much controversy over the “appropriateness” of critical race theory and culturally responsive/sustaining teaching. Not to mention that “learning loss” is also being seen with a deficit mindset as a result from the pandemic. Things are getting quite messy because these issues from both sides of the political aisle have intricate and interrelated overlaps that will deeply impact many of our students, particularly those who are already on the margins of our school community.
When we staunchly advocate or push a side that intensifies a binary, we actually create a demeanor or dogma that will push out another group of our population. Some “woke” people may try to declare that it is about educational equity, but advocating for equality of an instructional method, program, or mandate is not equity in our diverse society.
How are we showing up as supporters of literacies?
If we are “woke,” in what ways are we still falling back on old patterns of systems and structures in schools and curriculum? How do we start to make change for flexibility toward equity?
How do we foster listening and courage over ignorance and comfort?
How did we learn to read and write as children? (That is, if you can remember!) How do we read and write now? How does our experience impact how you teach or read with children?
How do we objectively observe a child learning to read and write?
How can we discuss with children on strategies for when we are stuck on words or word meanings in ways that children have ownership to grow?
What about a child who can read per se, but doesn’t catch meaning? Struggles to comprehend?
What about the interaction between interest, motivation, and engagement?
How can we delight in joy and exuberance against the face of assessments and skills?
If we are told to teach just “skills,” how do we do that? Teaching 1+1=2 and c-a-t spells cat is easy, but what about narrative arcs? Metaphors? Point of views? Critical analysis?
What about background knowledge and vocabulary impacting fluency and comprehension?
Do we really need to count the number of accurate words? Reading speed? The number of “correct” responses to comprehension questions?
What about feelings? Identities as readers? What does a happy reader look like?
How do we move from compliance to engagement? Exploring and experiencing rather than rubrics, checklists, points, grades, and building resumes?
And how are we sharing how books shaped our thinking and lives over the years?
In other words, how do we trust our children to grow in the delights, messy and joyful, of exploring all things literacies?