Science of Reading? No, thank you.

Who’s tired of hearing about the Science of Reading (SoR) advocates and their accusations that teachers don’t teach phonics and that’s why kids aren’t reading at “grade level”, whatever that means?

I know I am.

And, here I thought that the irrelevant ranking of kids reading at a 3.7 grade level was a thing of the past.

At its core, the SoR movement doesn’t trust teachers’ experiences and expertise when it comes to reading. Proponents of SoR believe that all children need phonics, and all the other related technicalities of reading, in order to read. Comprehension is a distant idea. The issue is sounding out words.

Don’t be distracted from what really matters: just in time, intentional instruction for individual students and groups of children. No child learns in the same way or at the same rate as the child next to them. Therefore, all children need informed teachers who observe and plan appropriate instruction. If it’s phonics, then that’s what is taught.

It’s not an either/or proposition, but this and that.

SoR is a diversion. As a teacher, it does not add anything to my understanding of how children learn to read or how to best teach my students. SoR is a simplification and a miscommunication (deliberate) about what the research says and doesn’t say and which research is going to be highlighted and which research will be buried because it doesn’t suit the SoR supporters.

It is disheartening to see so many holistic educators sidle up to SoR in order to profit from it or to maintain their king/queen of the mountain status. Some educators that I had previously learned a lot from, and whose previous resources I still use, are bending over backwards to satisfy SoR demands. Or they’re making small and medium shifts in their pedagogy to “fit in”.

Harsh? Maybe, but that’s that.

I am currently reading Reading’s Non-Negotiables by Rachel Gabriel. It is a highly readable book that illustrates seven non-negotiables in the reading classroom.

*Taken from the Table of Contents of this book.

They are: (1) Every reader chooses what they will read. (2) Every reader reads accurately. (3) Every reader reads something they will understand. (4) Every reading intervention is balanced to incorporate meaning. (5) Every reader writes about something meaningful (to them). (6) Every reader talks with peers about reading and writing. (7) Every reader listens to a fluent reader read aloud.*

I will be writing more about these seven non-negotiable in future blog posts. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you!

I’m Done Waiting

I’m sick. Again. But this time I’m trying hard not to crawl into a “crud hole”, as my children like to call it.

But I’m restless.

I’m aware of a rising sense of anxiety or nervousness: what am I going to do so that the politics of work don’t get to me. I do that too much.

I’ve always done that.

It affects my physical well-being. I know that now…sort of because to accept this means that I’m in control. I’m in charge. I’m the boss of me. I’m not a victim. And, of course, since I am a skeptic at heart, I am often doubtful that I can change myself.

But, the truth is that I don’t need to change myself; I need to accept myself.

I’m sick because I have allowed work conflicts to take over my life. To eat me up inside: to consume me. Instead of dealing with problems in the moment, or not and letting them go, I let them invade my thoughts and feelings

until my body falls sick.

It’s a warning sign, but lately my body is not bouncing back they way it used to. It’s taking longer to get back on my feet and it’s impacting family and friends around me.

It’s wearing me out.

You would think that after a first serious disconnect between my mind and my body, I would have learned my lesson. And, to some extent, I have; I see things differently. It turns out my mom was right, after all: without good health, you have nothing. But it’s also easy to forget those lessons when you’re feeling better.

Can I accept who I am so that I can heal myself?

It’s a scary proposition, so many skeletons in the closet, so much fear to expose. I’m not going to deny that I’m not thrilled to embark on this journey. What is that expression about the evil you know vs. the evil you don’t know?

Habits are hard to break, especially those habits that serve to protect me, but not in a way that heal and serve me well.

Accepting myself means being curious about myself, about what might be the origin of my triggers. How can I examine them and acknowledge them in order to make peace with them, and then move on with my life?

My husband is waiting.

My children are waiting.

I’m done waiting.

Relationships, Relationships, Rlationships

Over the last couple of years I’ve been reflecting on the quality of the relationships I have with particularly challenging children. I think I haven’t been true to my core as a teacher. I have forgotten to emphasize the importance of connections with students, especially those that are hard to teach and reach. I have reacted on an emotional level rather teaching these students by modeling appropriate behaviors without passing judgment.

I have felt shame and frustration and have resorted to punitive measures rather than teaching and guiding.

I could blame this on COVID or that I’m close to retirement or that I’m tired or any of a number of excuses that don’t help me move forward on the path to engaging and supporting students. The truth is: I’m not a brand new teacher facing new situations with kids. I am a seasoned teacher facing some familiar student behaviors and academic profiles.

So, I’m not going to blame kids or myself, for that matter.

Instead, I will take deep breaths, get up off the floor and do what’s best for kids…and for me: nurture connections that build relationships. It’s never too late.

Every day is another opportunity to get it right. And, on some days, I do.

This year I am struggling with a particular student who doesn’t follow directions, does not seem to be aware of our routines. Imagine that! (Just kidding!) I’ve tried everything I know to connect with this child so I can better teach them. And I am flummoxed.

To top it off, I feel I have little to no support managing this student’s behaviors that range from non-compliance to deliberate resistance to doing any task that requires sustained attention without an adult sitting side-by-side with them.

But I know that every day I have a fresh opportunity to get it right. That is one of the things I love about teaching.

When confronting a problem of teaching, I take a deep dive into the professional literature. I usually come up full. This time it’s Teachers These Days, Stories and Strategies for Reconnection by Jody Carrington and Laurie McIntosh.

Jody and Laurie remind readers to focus on relationships: building them, nourishing them and repairing them. Even on the days that I’m tired, I need to remain curious about my students so I can learn, engage and teach all of them.

I’d love to read your thoughts about these issues. Feel free to le leave a comment below.

The Me I was Meant to Be

Some days, when my little, but powerful inner voice decides to speak up, it likes to tell me that I have accomplished very little in my life.

That everyone has done so much more than I have, especially when it comes to those things that I keep moving from my short- and long-term to-do lists. Again and again and again.

That I’m not good enough and that’s why I haven’t reached the summits I intended to reach. At least, it’s what everyone kept telling me. What they expected from me.

But I came up short.

I haven’t written that book.

I haven’t launched that podcast.

I haven’t gotten that specialist position.

I haven’t finished my doctorate.

I haven’t become a sought after consultant or professional learning leader.

I haven’t achieved the mountains I’d thought I’d achieve by now.

So, I read other people’s books.

Attend their seminars.

All the time, wishing I could be them. In awe of them. Embarrassed of me.

I am limiting myself, my choices, the life I could still create for myself.

I am living the worst story I can tell myself right now. I know that. (I read my Gabor Maté.)

And then, the worst possible thought takes up residence in my mind. In my body. In my actions. ‘But I’m too old,’ it whispers forcefully.

I am my thoughts. And my thoughts are clearly debilitating me. Sabotaging me. Hurting me. Preventing me from creating myself in the way I was meant to be.

But that’s just today.

I know I can change this vision of myself and not necessarily by using affirmations. Those never worked for me, anyway or at least not in the long run.

It’s really about confronting and making nice with my demons. Acknowledging them and then being curious enough to figure out what lies beneath, so that I can find peace and move on to the me I was meant to be. Not a new me, but the me that has been hidden for so long that it might be hard to recognize her when she emerges.

I’m not saying this will be a one and done deal. I’m prepared for the long journey, setbacks and all.

Although I haven’t officially started – I don’t even know what that means exactly, since I’ve been down this road before but have not gone far enough – I’m determined to do the hard work. If there’s something I know it’s that this journey will be long and it will take me many places that are unknown to me in my current state.

On this journey (maybe I’ve already started?) I will take Gabor Maté, The Myth of Normal and Yung Pueblo, lighter, with me. I will use my journal, and this blog, to help me process my thoughts and feelings. I will create a vision for myself that will help me know myself in the ways I’m supposed to be.

Game on!

Writing Again – an update

I have not written a blog post since October of last year, if I’m not mistaken. It was a deliberate, but silly decision. I was annoyed because I didn’t get something I wanted that was directly related to blogging; I had applied twice and both times I got close, but not close enough. So I was mad and decided not to blog publicly for a while.

Infantile behavior, I know. But evolving and learning to do better is not defined by a straight path.

I finally decided that by making this decision, I was only hurting myself.

So, I’m going to start blogging regularly again. I need to explore some truths, like the one that follows.

The first year I was back teaching in person after COVID, I felt like the worst teacher ever. In fact, it was the worst year of my career. I struggled almost every day. I took two short-term leaves. I tried my best, but always felt like I was coming up short.

At the beginning of this school year, I got my teaching groove back, like Stella…and then I got a severe case of pneumonia and had to take a 2-month leave. I’d only been with my students for six weeks when I got sick and didn’t return until the first day back in January.

I had to start all over again. I had to revisit so many procedures. I had to rebuild my relationship with students. I had to figure out where to continue their learning and how to move forward.

Sometimes, I have felt like I’m being too rigid with my students. I’m not letting go of the little things and instead I’m perseverating on small behaviors rather than addressing the big issues.

So, I’ve spent time reflecting on what’s happening and I’ve come up with some things I’ve noticed that could be impacting my response in the classroom.

I have a very challenging student this year who would benefit from having a full-time assistant; we don’t have one.

Teachers have more paperwork and administrative tasks to do than ever before.

I’m still recovering from my bout with pneumonia and am nursing a Spring Break cold as I write this.

I am a couple of years from leaving the classroom and I am thinking about all the things I still want to do as a teacher.

I am starting to contemplate having a different role in education. Although I have yet to figure out what that is, I have a lot of ideas.

I feel young, but I’m painfully aware that I’m not; I know some of my colleagues are wondering: how much longer is she going to stay?

I have high standards and need to give my students and myself grace.

On those days when I feel like I’ve failed, I will remember that I am a good enough teacher, and I will try again the next day. We all deserve multiple opportunities to get things just right.

I look forward to writing a weekly post. I hope you’ll look forward to reading it.

A Writing Moratorium – a choice

It has been months since I sat down to write anything of significance. Other than the occasional email, to-do lists, lesson planning and weekly updates to families , I’ve consciously not been writing.


Until I stopped writing, I had been trying to live what I thought was the correct version of a writerly life. I was ticking off all the boxes that everyone around me was saying I needed to do to call myself a writer. Now I realize that I was playing at being a writer without feeling like a writer. The truth is that I’ve been feeling like a fake. Making a conscious decision not to write was my response to feeling inauthentic as a writer. As I religiously followed my own carefully planned writing routines, they began to feel ordinary and forced. Someone else’s idea of what it means to be a writer.

I needed a break. So, as another Tuesday rolled around – my day to blog – I’d give it a passing nod and substituted it with reading, resting or sleeping. Clearly, it was a time to shutter my blog, put down my pen and let other things take up space until I found my inspiration again. Because I knew I would find myself in my writing again.

I write today, not because I feel inspired to get my thoughts out to the world, although there’s that, but because I needed an outlet. It was time to let my words flow. It was time to figure out what practices define my writing life. It was time to understand myself as a writer by living my version of a writerly life.

I don’t know if I’ve fully explored the reasons for this self-imposed writing moratorium in this post. There might be more to uncover still, but the realization that this was a choice rather than the usual reasons – lack of time, lack of ideas – and that I need to be more authentic for myself is a big aha moment for me.

I am not here to live the life of other writers. I am here to ruminate and discover myself so I can be a better person through writing. Writing allows me to see what previously lay hidden until words made them come alive.

And, that is why I write.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

Writing – #SOL

Photo by on

I missed writing a blog post last week.

I was exhausted – the story of this school year – and I let myself slip into that exhaustion until I had convinced myself I just didn’t have the energy to put pen to paper or, in this case, fingers to keyboard.

But yesterday while I was responding to some comments on my last post I realized how much I was missing reflecting and thinking about life.

So I decided not to skip this week.

This also reminded me how important it is to give students time to reflect about their feelings, their learning and life.

That’s why I make sure that I insert small, medium and large moments of reflection into our classroom routines. Sometimes these are related to a specific assignment and sometimes they have to do with a general sense of self.

Sometimes we write. Sometimes we share orally. And, sometimes we reflect silently.

Listening to and reading what my students have to say about their learning allows me to get a glimpse into their inner thoughts that I’d miss otherwise.

Reflection is an integral part of any learning process.

So, I write to learn something new about myself that had previously lain hidden below the surface.

I appreciate the opportunity this community gives me to air my dirty laundry, so to speak, and grow in the process.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Today’s rant – #SOL

Source: Free Photo Library

I wish I could shout this from the rooftops:

Kids will learn to read (and write) if

they have a knowledgeable teacher

who reads (and writes) for pleasure;

is familiar with appropriate age and grade level books for their students;

knows their students well enough to bring books into the classroom that they will enjoy;

reads aloud to students every day;

sometimes writes with students and shares their writing with the class;

provides individualized instruction at the student’s point of need;

is willing to try anything to support and guide students to become lifelong readers;

encourages students to use multiple strategies for comprehending text;

uses a mix of one-on-one, small group and whole class instruction;

uses a variety of instructional strategies and structures to address curricular objectives and the needs of their current students based on careful and ongoing observation;

realizes that a one size fits all approach benefits no one;

encourages and supports self-selection of books by students for independent reading;

incorporates daily independent reading (and writing) time into the class schedule;

celebrates the books that their students read and encourages students to read widely by sharing books in many genres and styles;

understands that, ultimately, reading (and writing) are ways of thinking;

is willing to address incomplete understanding in their practice by delving into inquiries about tricky problems of teaching they have identified;

recognizes that reading and writing are reciprocal processes;

celebrates students’ approximations when reading and writing and recognizes them as evidence of learning;

has faith that students can and will become joyful, purposeful and strategic readers and writers when exposed to engaging books and processes for responding to what they are reading;

eschews commercial programs and rigid decontextualized approaches to teaching and learning;

accepts that teaching and learning are complex and intertwined processes and there are no easy fixes or replacements for a knowledgeable teacher;

builds relationships with their students and views diversity and difference as assets for learning;

interrogates their own racism in order to become an anti racist teacher;

and understands that there is no magic age by which a child should be reading (and I don’t equate reading with sounding out words without making sense of the words, but you know that already), but rather recognizes the power of reading to change and enrich lives.

Did I shout it loud enough? Impossible to achieve? Maybe not every day and for every child, but we can aspire to be this kind of teacher for all students each and every day.

Will you join me?

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

I am sweating bricks

I am sweating bricks. (I know the correct word here isn’t sweating, but it’s the closest to how I’m feeling and it’s the most appropriate word I can use in a public forum.)

I am sweating bricks.

Why all the fuss, you ask? Well, we have a new K – 3 curriculum in the works for Alberta schools this fall. It is the worst curriculum I’ve ever encountered in my professional career because not only is it developmentally inappropriate, it is also politically oriented rather than based on accepted and/or innovative pedagogies.

It is the opposite of child centered.

Some parts are directly copied from the discredited Core Knowledge Foundation.

It teaches more US than Canadian history and is apologetic of social inequities and racism.

Many racialized, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ children will not see themselves in it for a variety of reasons, including the sheer enormity of facts we are expected to teach with little time for anything outside the curriculum. Right now, we have some leeway in terms of including other things not in the written curriculum.

So, I am sweating bricks.

The draft curriculum was only piloted by 1% of schools in the province; most school boards refused to pilot for a variety of reasons. Only 5% of teachers support it. There is a vocal parent movement against it. Our provincial professional association is actively opposed to it. Content area experts here have publicly written about all the reasons the draft curriculum, in all subject areas, needs to be scrapped. The few teachers involved in the curriculum review (and, yes, we were overdue for a new curriculum) were served with a gag order as a condition of their involvement in the review process. As soon as it was lifted several of the participating teachers spoke out against the review and the curriculum.

Need I say more?

Maybe that I’m sweating bricks?

I am sweating bricks because I find it morally and ethically reprehensible that I am expected to teach a curriculum that is not only sub-par, but is also insulting and potentially damaging to teachers and children.

I keep hoping that the ministry will come to its senses and #DitchtheDraft, but that is not likely to happen.

As I write this post, the realization that I will have to teach this in September is increasing my anxiety.

So, I am sweating bricks.

But I won’t give up. I will figure out a way to protect my grade 3 students from this horrible curriculum come September.

Any and all ideas for how to do this are welcome, so I can stop sweating bricks.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Tuesday Challenge.

Tuesday #SOL Challenge – You Matter

Yesterday I attended a session about diversity, equity and inclusion sponsored by my provincial teachers’ association.

The presenter was well-prepared and shared interesting information.

He used story telling and statistic to develop his argument and line of thinking.

He emphasized that most interactions are about how validated or not we feel. He said that everyone wants to know the answers to the following three questions:

Do you hear me?

Do you see me?

Do I matter to you?

He exhorted us to remember these three questions when teaching our students.

Today I kept those questions in the back of my mind as I went through my day. I wasn’t hyper focused on them, but I felt that they influenced some of the decisions I made and how I interacted with others.

During our class meeting, a student shared a concern that the way people were behaving in the hallway made it hard for others to maneuver around coats, backpacks and outdoor shoes. She said she was considering talking to the principal. So, I suggested she write him a letter. She did and I delivered it.

Later in the day, she gave me a paper heart. This from a student that can sometimes appear to be be a wee bit irreverent. I interpreted her action to mean that she felt heard, seen and that she mattered to me.

If I can do something to make at least one student every day know that I see and hear them and that they matter, I will feel like I’ve made a difference for that student. That difference could determine a turning point for them.

Every time that I am too rushed or bothered to show a student that I see them or if I’m suspicious of a student’s intention or because my bias has blinded me, I have failed to champion them. To lift them up. To teach them, and the rest of the class, what it means to truly care for others.

I have a lot of work to do.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.