This afternoon I spent about twenty minutes conferring with a particular student's parents after an egregious typo sent these poor caregivers reeling in fear. My blunder in reporting an inaccurate reading level prompted a deeper conversation which left me feeling like a ship lost at sea. My pedagogical compass seems to be broken, and as I listened to a child pleading for in-class, free-choice reading time, my heart broke.
You see, for the last few weeks I have been the "picker of the text". In an effort to expose students to a wide variety of tested genres, I robbed them of of their autonomy. Without meaning to, I sent them the message that books don't matter— tests do. What should have been "read-to-self" time, quickly became "drill-and-kill" time. Did I attempt to make the instruction fun and engaging? Sure! Did my students become more proficient at answering multiple choice questions? You betcha. But at what cost?
It's time to step on the brakes and re-calibrate. My true north tells me that voluminous, voracious reading is more powerful than passages, excerpts, or carefully chosen selections. Kids who start and finish books excel at academic tasks, and more importantly, they grow up to become life long readers who think, analyze, and reflect.
Why does this happen every year? When will the testing merry-go-round stop? How can I plant my feet firmly on the ground and quit losing my way? I think I will go reread Donalyn Miller's latest book, Reading in the Wild. I need a little inspiration, and she always has a way of repairing my broken compass.