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C Is Not For Cookie

[Editor’s note: miss brave is the pseudonym for a second-year elementary school teacher in Queens. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]

Recently my AP came to see me. I was wary, because I thought she was coming to switch around my reading groups, but it wasn’t that. Instead, it was worse: She came to ask me why some of my kids’ reading levels didn’t go up.

She was especially interested in my students who are still reading at level B, who are primarily non-English speakers. She kept asking if I was sure they weren’t ready for C, as if I wasn’t keeping track of their abilities and they had magically developed a robust sight word vocabulary and decoding skills overnight. She also made it seem like since they do have one-to-one correspondence, they should be ready for C books. But in my opinion, the leap from B to C requires the biggest jump in reading ability. At level B, all they have to be able to do is match the number of words. For example, if the book reads, “We play music,” and the child says, “I love reading,” the child is correct! Simply because they know that there are three distinct words on the page. (Believe it or not, this is a huge and difficult skill for kids to master.) But in order to read level C books independently, we expect them to read the words accurately. My English language learners have one-to-one correspondence and they can even memorize the patterns in their books, but they still cannot decode, they don’t possess any sight word vocabulary, and they can’t answer comprehension questions because they don’t understand English.

Then she started in on my students who have been stuck at the same reading level since last year. Before I tell you what she said, let me first make it clear that this has been a crusade of mine since our last round of running records. I made a list of all of my students whose levels didn’t change and I posted it up next to my desk. I went through each individual running record, took notes on the exact skills that seem to be holding them back from reaching the next level, and started doing strategy lessons based on those skills. At the time it seemed really daring — checklists be damned!

So then yesterday my AP was like, “I think you need to look into what’s holding them back from reaching the next level. You might need to teach them explicitly those skills. Maybe look at their running records and plan some strategy lessons.”

I don’t know if I should have been…but I felt a little insulted. First of all, I have yet to be observed this year by my AP, and it’s not like we have regular meetings where we plan and discuss these things. So to have her tell me I should be doing something that in actuality I have been working my butt off on, which she would know if we communicated more, was disheartening. In addition to the fact that I felt a little like I was being interrogated in the first place as to why my kids aren’t moving up in a way that made it seem like I didn’t know them and their abilities well enough to be able to explain myself. As if I would sit there and say, “Hey, what the heck! Sure, let’s bump her to C!”

Meanwhile, my colleagues tell me that Teachers College is adamantly against rushing kids through the reading levels, but that my administration has been doing this kind of “Why aren’t your kids moving?” interrogation for years.

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5 Comments:

  • 1 Redcatcher
    · Dec 22, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Stop complaining. This AP may be for “Change We Can Believe In.” Just move the kids to level C, and pass them on to the next grade. You must be living in Oz if you think that AP truly cares about whether the kids learn to read or not.

  • 2 Techmeister
    · Dec 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Let me first say that you are doing a great job and these types of situations are very common. May I suggest one piece of food for thought? The very thoughts you express to us here about your AP and her lack of communication and the very thoughts you express to us are one in the same. Try and express your thoughts to her in a civil way and “break the cycle” Someone may comment that you will pay a retribution for expressing your thoughts to the AP, but at least you will fully know the reality in which you work. Otherwise I believe you are destined to blog without solution. Just my two cents.

  • 3 Redcatcher
    · Dec 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    After 30 years in the system, I’ve met administrators who have run the gamut. I’ve had superintendents who told principals that part of their rating would be based on grievances that should have been resolved at Step 1 to principals who told teachers they may not use school restrooms. When the principal saw teachers using the restrooms, they were written up for insubordination.
    (Even the hearing officer at Step 3 thought the principal was nuts.)

  • 4 Ms. Flecha
    · Dec 28, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    That’s the thing – sometimes we can work our butt off on teaching the ELL kids decoding and reading skills, but it comes down to vocabulary. But I guess reading teachers aren’t supposed to teach that?

    I think you had a right to be insulted (no matter what the AP really thinks about kids learning). There are APs at my school like that too — apparently, if they know how to hold a book in 1st grade, put them on B one of them says. I appreciate the way you broke down the leap from B to C — I never really learned the differences between levels and I have third graders on E who have much stronger inferencing skills (but are poorer decoders) than kids on level M.

  • 5 greg32farris
    · Jan 26, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I do not blame you for being upset with this person, people that do not come in directly with the students shouldn’t be making judgements like this. A teacher normally knows what is best for the student, since he or she is around them majority of the day.