Monday, July 24, 2017

What I learned in First Grade

This morning I was reading George Couros' most recent blog post: 5 Questions to Ask Your Students to Start the School Year Click Here. At the beginning of the post he shares a question he posted on twitter to his followers:

"In your time as a student in K-12, what made an impact on you. Not who, but what? What do you remember that influenced you today?"

This question brought me back to first grade - the year I learned to HATE reading.  I learned that reading is about being grouped by ability and learning about Dick and Jane.  I learned it was laborious, meaningless (to me), and most of all passionless.  While I had books at home that I loved, that is not what reading at school was for me.  I was in the lowest reading group and it was then that I chose not to be a reader which meant I would battle reading the rest of my K-12 years.  I did not read for pleasure or in my free time, reading was a chore and/or a requirement.  Needless to say, that might have something to do with my passion for math and science.

Even though I had given up on being a reader, I would watch my mom devour books and spend hours chatting with her friends about books.  I secretly wanted to feel the passion my mom had for books and reading.  I assumed I would have to wait until I was an adult to experience THAT type of reading.  

One summer, when I was in college, I was visiting my Nana in Mission Beach and I picked up a Danielle Steele book.  Everyone reads at the beach so I decided to give it a try.  My reading world was changed forever.  I laughed, cried, got angry, frustrated and connected to the characters and the story.  I read every Danielle Steele book that was in the beach house.  I call Danielle my "gateway" author - she was the one who pulled me in, but after a few of her books, I needed more substance.  I'm so thankful for Danielle because she taught me what reading is/should be.

After that summer I began my credential program and my student teaching.  I was placed in a fifth grade classroom and another transformation happened.  As we read books like Bridge to Terabithia, I became more and more angry.  As I read and connected with the characters and had vivid pictures swirling in my mind I was mad at every teacher I had that never gave me that passion for reading, 13 years of schooling and NOT ONE of my teachers helped me cross over and become a passionate reader.  I set out to read all of the incredible books I skipped or missed out on during those 13 years.  

My second year of teaching during our "DEAR" time (drop everything and read) I was still catching up on incredible children's literature books.  I also read aloud everyday to my 4th and 5th grade students.  I would cry as I read and I modeled how you are supposed to feel and interact with a book and it's characters.  I also had Marisol, one of my 5th graders.  When I would get to a point in a book that I was crying so hard I could no longer read coherently, Marisol would come and take the book from my hands, sit next to me and continue reading where I had left off.  It was a seamless transition and I would go join the criers table (where all the criers sat during read aloud).  We would cry together as Marisol read aloud to us.  The students would keep a careful eye on me during DEAR time and when they saw me crying, they would demand that I read that book next.

Interestingly I'll be returning to the classroom as a first grade teacher, a grade I have not taught ever in my 27 year career.  I'll be sharing my journey as my students and I learn together this year.  One thing I know for sure, my students and I  will share a passion for books and reading from day one.