We, as reading teacher’s, have the most of amazing job of helping struggling students become readers. Helping to shape the literacy lives of our students is a special task. As much as I love being a reading teacher there are some very real struggles that come with the job. The following is a list of what has been most challenging for me and some suggestions that might help you if you happen to encounter any these situations.
It seems that support staff positions are the first to go in financially difficult times. When our department is short-staffed we feel the pressure to see every single struggling reader no matter the sacrifices we have to make. When our caseload is too big we find yourself:
- meeting with groups that are too big
- shortening the time that we see our students
- seeing our students less frequently
We make the move toward quantity over quality even though we know that it is not in the best interest of our students.
Suggestion: First thing’s first…are you meeting with your principal on a regular basis? If not, set up regular monthly, or at the very least, bi-monthly meeting with your principal. During these meetings, you can communicate what is going well and what might need work within the reading department. This is a good time for you to give your principal a snapshot of how the students receiving interventions are progressing. You may want to collect data on students who are seen for 20 minutes daily versus 30 minutes or those seen five times weekly versus 4 times weekly. Have your data reflect the rate of growth. Then share this data with your administrator.
Working in a Bubble
At times, we may feel like we are working in a lonely little bubble. We attempt to communicate with teachers as frequently as we can, but they are often overwhelmed with their many responsibilities. When we are able to meet with teachers we find that they are tied to district mandates and may not feel that they have the flexibility to do what we are suggesting.
Suggestion: Actively participate in PLC meetings or any other meetings that allow you to work alongside classroom teachers. Find other ways to communicate student progress and next steps rather than relying on always meeting face to face. Be sympathetic to the many pressures that classroom teachers have. Invite teachers to lessons so they can see the type of work you are doing with their students.
No Control Over Teaching Decisions
We may find that the amazing lessons we dreamed of doing are not going to happen because we are required to follow a particular scripted intervention program. That program may even contradict what we have learned about best practices in reading.
Suggestion: This one is tricky if you’re mandated to follow the program with FIDELITY. Just keep in mind that you know your students better than a program does. You may be able to pull out pieces of the program that you think will work with the needs of your students and use those pieces as a supplement to what you know works with developing strategic readers. Meeting regularly with your principal may be helpful in this situation as well. You can work at creating a relationship where the principal wants you to be involved in any changes to reading intervention implementation.
Interrupted Teaching Time
There may be meetings and other responsibilities that will interrupt our teaching time with our students. Sometimes we wish for just one week where there isn’t something conflicting with our time spent teaching our students (or planning our lessons)?
Suggestion: During your principal meetings let your principal know how much time you are missing your students. Help to brainstorm ways to limit the amount of time you miss. Be vocal about guarding your time with your students.
Pressure to “Fix” the Child
Teachers may look at us to “fix” the child right up – the quicker the better! We may work to no avail at changing that mindset. We try our hardest to help teachers to see that our children are not broken. At times, we hear the weaknesses of the children we work with discussed over and over even though we try to put the children’s strengths at the center of the conversation.
Suggestion: Do your best to work side-by-side with classroom teachers. Through your actions show that you value the work of the classroom teacher. If you hear negative talk about a student respond with something positive. If the focus is all on the many things the child can not do help the teacher to see what the student can do and what they are almost able to do. Then support the teacher by talking through next steps together.
Like any job in the teaching field reading teachers have their challenges. Do you have a reading teacher struggle that is not on this list? Please share them with us in the comment section below.