... about teaching reading!
Elizabeth is a dear friend of mine, though we haven't seen each other in a long time. I got the chance to chat with her over the weekend about teaching reading to elementary students. Just so you know, Elizabeth hates all things computer related. So much so that she doesn't even own a home computer or a cell phone. I know... how crazy is that in this day and age? I try to convince her to join the technological era every time we speak, but so far she has been resistant to my common sense arguments. This was a phone conversation, where I tried to scribble notes and she tried to speak slow and keep things short, which she failed of course. Answers may not be 100% verbatim, but I read this to her and she agrees that I got it pretty much right. haha
Q: You teach reading to 5th and 6th graders. What made you decide to go into teaching?
A: My mom and grandmother were teachers. They both taught up to the days they died. My grandfather was a school board member and my father is an administrator. You could say it is in my blood to work in education. (laughter) When I started college, I didn't really know of any other professions. It was just always assumed that I would become a teacher. Of course, I am glad that I did so, because I honestly can't see myself as anything else. I love children [Beth has 6 kids, no joke] and have always enjoyed literature. It just made sense to transition from general education to reading teacher when the position became available.
Q: What do you teach kids?
A: What kind of question is that? (laughter) Well, let's see... I teach students, those behind their peers in reading, the skills they need to reach the standard reading level of their classmates. Basically, I help underachieving students reach their potential. I work with children that are struggling with the hope of preventing grade level retention. I use all kinds of materials to do this: magazines, graphic novels, newspapers, journals, and so on. I am supposed to get these kids more technology based instruction but you know me. [She hates anything mechanical. Seriously, she can't even program an analogue clock. haha] They gave me all these websites that can help increase reading skills through games. I got a high school student as a teacher's aide this year and she helps them with the computer stuff. I have tried to learn how to do that computer shit but it always breaks. Oh, can I say shit? [She went on to confirm that she always "breaks the Internet" when she touches a computer. Really, she is quite helpless without someone to do her computer work. When we worked together, I input her grades and lesson plans for her in exchange for her making sure my lessons fit the Course of Study and teaching me how to be a disciplinarian in the classroom without being a raging bitch.]
Q: What are your favorite resources that you use?
A: Well, I have to go by the Course of Study of course, but I really enjoy the novels. My classes read one novel a quarter, in addition to the other reading material to fill out the quarter. Our school district has a uniform reading list, so my kids read the same four novels throughout the year that other kids in our district read. We have a nonfiction biography/memoir, fiction, classic, and award winner category and during the summer, the reading curriculum is planned out during the first in-service.
This year, my 5th graders read:
Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet by Harriet Rohmer
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
Pippi Longstockings by Astrid Lindgren
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
My 6th graders read:
Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust by Allen Zullo and Mara Bovsun
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Harris
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
I usually try to get the nonfiction read during the first quarter simply because the kids respond the least favorable to it. I get them actively involved with all of the books, but the nonfiction is typically the one that bores them. I save the best for last, which is the award winners. Bridge to Terabithia won a Newberry Medal. A Wrinkle in Time won a Newberry Medal, a Sequoyah Book Award, and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. It is too bad you don't write middle grade fiction. Then we could buy copies of your book and I could use some of our funding to fly you in for a "meet the author" event! [Don't tempt me dammit! But I doubt anyone would accept me as a middle grade fiction writer with the foul language I am fond of using. I could censor myself... Out of curiosity, I asked Beth how many books that would sell and she said there are 5 county schools, each with anywhere between 80-100 students on average per grade. If both the 5th and 6th grade read the same book, that would put the purchase at 800-1000 books. Interesting...]
Q: What is something that you hate about your job?
A: Honestly, there isn't much I hate about teaching my students. My students are wonderful, even if they challenge me to the point of nervous breakdown sometimes. I enjoy my co-workers, some more than others. I don't mind the paperwork, so long as I don't have to put it in the computer. Now, the politics involved in being a teacher... that I hate. Also, I hate teaching with material that has a movie based on it. Ugh. Just ugh. [Can I get an AMEN?]
Q: Okay, last question. What are you reading right now?
A: I will tell you so long as you don't publish my last name, my age, or where I teach. Not even the generalities. You can use my first name and what I teach. Okay? [As if I would say no...] Right now, I'm reading the 50 Shades trilogy by E. L. James. [Wait, that is a trilogy???] My husband and I just finished reading the second book, Fifty Shades Darker, together. [Officially, my mind is blown. Beth is the most straight laced chick I have met in a long time. She is shy and modest. She doesn't wear clothing that shows her shoulders or her knees, for Pete's sake!]
Okay, so my phone interview with reading teacher Elizabeth was a long one. Between the conversation, we managed to get the questions answered, but only just so. I talked to her last night to confirm that I could print the extra information about her, like the number of kids she has and whatnot. She said that was fine. As you can tell, Beth is a very interesting person with some surprises up her sleeve! Have questions for her about teaching reading to 5th and 6th grade? Or for reading K-12 regardless? She is one of those dinosaurs that is lucky enough to have K-12 certification before that started getting separated in her home state. :D Post your questions below and I will pass them along!