MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
My personal teaching philosophy is simple: I want my students to love reading. I truly believe that if my students leave my classroom with a love of reading, they are leaving with a gift that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Research has shown that reading is the one activity that has countless academic and non-academic benefits. Academically, students who love to read and read often have higher achievement levels, more advanced vocabularies, and stronger writing skills than students who do not. Non-academically, reading can help students build empathy with those who are different, learn about new ideas and experiences, and escape the realities of daily life. My students are dealing with some very difficult topics in their personal lives, such as poverty, abuse, deported parents, and contentious divorces. I view it as my mission to help my students discover the joy and sense of escape that a good book can bring. If I can help my students love to read, then I am giving them control over their learning even after they are done with school. In addition, we are living in a time when fake news is everywhere, and it is more important now than ever for students to be able to read critically and form their own opinions about what they are reading.
It seems like every school year, there is a new literacy initiative being touted by different schools, districts, and curriculum developers. I feel strongly that good literacy instruction requires only a few things: plenty of books for students to choose from, a high-interest novel to be used as a read-aloud, and a teacher who loves to read. I have worked hard over the past two years to develop a classroom library of over 1,000 books for students to choose from. Our school library is small and outdated, so I knew that if I expected children to be reading for fun, I needed to provide them with books to do just that. Each day, I ensure that my students get at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted independent reading time, and I refuse to sacrifice that for test prep or any other activity that doesn’t help further a love of reading. For our daily read-aloud, I choose class novels that are engaging and that have diverse characters that my students can relate to. Like independent reading time, read-aloud time is sacred in my classroom, and in my opinion, there is no better sound than hearing my students groan when we finish a chapter and have to wait until the following day to find out what happens next. Finally, rather than using passages or excerpts for students to practice their reading skills with, I allow students to use their independent reading books to practice what we are learning. I find that this deepens student comprehension of their independent reading texts, and they are more engaged in the activities because they have control over what texts they are using.
Although I have always loved reading, this love didn’t transfer into my classroom practice during my first year of teaching. Feeling pressure from my administrators and certification program, I didn’t have a clear vision for my classroom and didn’t place an emphasis on students actually reading. After spending the summer after my first year educating myself on the reader’s workshop style of teaching, I knew I wanted to implement that in my classroom. During my second year, I gave my students choice over what to read and choice over how to respond to what they read. This emphasis on choice, in combination with engagement strategies like Book Tastings, Book Raffles, and Read-a-Thons, resulted in more of my students enjoying reading. I knew that I had made a change for the better. This coming year, I want to keep the structures that worked last year, and improve my ability to hold individual reading conferences with students and help them set more personalized reading goals.