Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Getting Comfortable with a Steep Learning Curve

I sat down with a reading group yesterday and realized I had no idea what I was doing. I've never read with on-grade level third grade readers before. Even though I'd met with the reading teacher, filled out my lesson plans, and thought through each step I still felt naked in front of the group.

Guided reading to me is something I can do in my sleep. I love guided reading and for the most part I think I'm pretty good at teaching children to read (nobody is perfect, but I think it is one of my strengths as a teacher). Note that I said "teaching children to read". I can take a non-reader and immediately know what to do next. I can assess what strategies to need to be taught, what high frequency words need to be addressed, what book handling skills need to be put in place. At this point I have most of those low level books memorized so I barely have to think about my book introductions.

I sat at a table yesterday looking at 5 skeptical third graders, holding a book wondering how on earth I was going to make this book interesting for them. I listened to them read and wondered what words are suppose to be high frequency words. I wondered why they could read so fluently without stopping to decode the massive amounts of big words on the page. I wondered what next step to choose for them- what word study to pull from the book, what teaching point, what to have them retell.

These are all decisions I no longer agonize over in the lower grades. There was a time when I did, of course, but that time was years ago. This uncertainty isn't comfortable either. In fact, it's down right scary. What if I screw up these poor readers?

I remember my first year being so ashamed that I didn't know what "guided reading" was. I tried to hide that I had no idea what I was doing, and then was scared to ask questions because I felt everyone was judging me for not knowing what to do. I made it so much worse on myself by not allowing myself to ask someone to show me what to do.

Now, 11 years later, I'm slightly embarrassed by the amount of questions I keep shooting off to the reading teacher but now my embarrassment isn't going to stop me. If I learned to teach guided reading once I can certainly learn to teach it again. It's uncomfortable to no longer feel like an expert, but it's also a good experience. It reminds me how the kids feel when they are learning something new, and how the new teachers feel throughout their day. That unsettling feeling that you really have no idea what you are doing while you try to fake your way through the day. Luckily now I'm older and have less to prove. I look forward to one day feeling like I know what I'm doing, but until then I'll keep asking questions and chugging along.

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