I’m sure I’ve mentioned this about a gazillion times, but I am the French reading specialist in my school. I work with small groups of kids, all day long, trying to help them become better readers. I teach kids phonics, I teach them little tricks to help them remember all those phonics, I teach them how to blend sounds together to make words, I teach them commonly-used words that need to be memorized because they can’t really be sounded out, I teach them how to predict, I teach them how to access what they already know, I teach them how to summarize stories, I teach them how to extract and organize information from non-fiction texts, I teach them reading comprehension strategies so they know what to do if they don’t understand what they have just read. Reading is actually a pretty complicated business and most classroom teachers do all this stuff with their entire classes. My job is to review and reteach and practice all of this with those kids who, for whatever reason, don’t pick it up easily within the larger classroom.
Every kid progresses at their own rate. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.) So, I get to see a lot of progress every year. I evaluate the French reading of every single kid in my school every June. From those results, I know who I will be working with the next September. I re-evaluate those kids with whom I have worked in December, and change up the groups for January. I do this again in March, just before Spring Break. The door to my classroom is pretty much revolving, as my reading groups often change quite a bit during a school year.
This is very satisfying work, for the most part. Yes, there are the “chronic” poor readers, those kids that I work with year after year, the ones whose rate of progress is actually quite slow and who fall behind – and usually stay behind their classmates, unfortunately. There’s a few of those in every grade. But there are a lot more that I see for a term or two, then they’re off and reading at or near the expected grade level. I love it when that happens, and always make a big deal of telling a kid that they’re reading so well now that I have nothing more to teach them, so I’m going to drop them from my group and take another kid whose could use a little help with their reading. Some of the little ones don’t like leaving my group (there have actually been a few tears over the years!), but by and large, the kids are all pretty pleased with themselves – and they should be, because I make them work hard!
And sometimes the parents express their appreciation for my efforts, too. At the end of every year, I’ve had lots of lovely cards and notes to thank me, and sometimes little gifts – all totally unnecessary, but really very nice!
And look – recently, I got this, smack in the middle of the school year! After the March reading evaluations, I had emailed this particular mom about her daughter’s very impressive results, because the kid was now reading pretty much at grade level, after having been almost a non-reader in September. The mom came in to discuss those results and was so happy that she brought me a thank-you present – this orchid! She told me that she thought I was wonderful, that I had given her daughter the self-confidence to try, and that her daughter absolutely loved me!
And that made my day, it truly did, and now, every time I look at that orchid, I think that maybe, sometimes I really DO make a small difference somewhere – and that maybe, sometimes, that gets noticed. And I smile.
And I love my job!