"'Think it will work?/ It would take a miracle'"

Well, less than a week until school begins. eek.

To follow up from my "garageband" caper (aka "seminar"), I have just taken part in two days worth of "structured/guided" reading training. My district has suddenly decided (realized?) that a large segment of our kids who score 300-349("Basic" (meaning not quite up to grade level) in California State Exam-speak) is being under-served. They think, perhaps, they need more help with their reading. I have to ask, really? you think?

Of course, this being public education you have to take the good (realizing that kids should read more, that we should focus on directly and conscientiously teaching reading, that we should be given time in class to do so) with the bad (ahem, suddenly the "extra" time we were supposed to have to do this has melted away into this awful sort of grammar/spelling blend). I love that I am now being "told" by my district to focus on the skill of reading for these students. I adore that I am being given permission to spend significant time teaching specific reading skills and strategies. Not necessarily how to decode, not necessarily how to "sound out" words (although those are important skills), but I am being told to do what I can to make sure that my students are comfortable reading, choosing, and analyzing books. What a great idea!

Unfortunately, I have learned most of this (we heard some rumors last year) in the last two days--when school starts next Monday. In a room full of teachers, most of whom we willing to try and really shift the emphasis of our teaching, you could feel the anxiety as almost a palpable thing. Would we be able to figure it out in time? Would we spend too much time fumbling around trying to figure out exactly how this would all work? Where, in the world, would we find the time to get everything else we were still required to do finished as well?

One of the things I love about teaching is that most of my colleagues will do whatever it takes to help their students. They will try new core materials; they will "individualize" instruction; they will agree to try a new reading program five days before school starts. I wonder, sometimes, if we're not doing both ourselves and our students a disservice for the way we go about adopting new ideas. It is rare to see a concept pioneered in one classroom. We almost never get the chance to watch something in action. Instead, we are asked to try and do something--and see how it goes.

All of this makes our miracles, struggles that they are, rushed. We are trying to simultaneously teach content, standards, and basic skills--while somehow in the back of our minds taking notes and re-designing a system that has never been tried before. The reality is that this is often how teaching works. The miracle is that teachers, in spite of this amount of pressure and multi-tasking, often succeed.

But still, I worry about these kids, and I worry about my fellow teachers--because you know what Miracle Max said...

You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.