Sunday, January 24, 2016

Reading Beyond the Classroom: The Reading Chain Challenge

A little over a month ago I left my dream job to begin a new chapter in a similar position in a different state! I spent many sleepless nights trying to decide if this was the right thing to do. I fought myself because my whole life I generally took the road less travelled. This was once again, the road less travelled! I have always looked out for others before myself. I cheered for the underdog because I believe that all people deserve a chance in life no matter what their home circumstances are like. I grew up watching Walt Disney films where the underdog always wins. Now, I was leaving an amazing group of children who usually gave me their best work. Children who followed my every whim. Children who trusted me to take care of them and guide their education. In our short time together, we all became stars. We didn't sit quietly alone in our special education classroom. We emerged during our time together. We were in the newspaper several times and made television news on two stations. How did we do this? We did this by working hard for others and in the process building our own confidence and academic skills. We made memories that last a lifetime. I learned more from these kids than I ever did in any higher education classroom. In the end, I didn't want to be just one more person walking out of their lives. Saying goodbye was hard. As my assistant reminded us, this goodbye was forever. At the time I thought this word "forever" was going to break my heart! 
    My first day in my new position, I was greeted by two amazing paraeducators and a new classroom of children. Beginning a new position in the middle of a school year is an unique challenge. My new students were unsure about me, rightfully so. I of course thought of the children that I left behind. I always say "once my student always my student". I found myself using many of the same techniques that I used in my previous position. Techniques that my former students helped me to hone. In my first month in my new position I have learned so much. I have learned, that just like students, teachers are always learning too. I still have so much to learn. I am grateful for this. I still get excited when learning new skills and techniques. 
    It's been a month. My new students were curious about my former students. They asked lots of questions about them. In this month , I have gradually blended my brand of teaching to my new classroom. We decided to make a reading chain like the one my former students in room 215 have started. Then we decided to challenge the room 215 kids into a reading challenge to see which class can read the most books by the end of the school year! My new students in room 10 kept track of their books read this school year, so we made a reading chain like the one in room 215! The challenge is on! 
   "Forever" isn't forever! Two groups of teens who come from different worlds have come together to compete for the top reading title! The prize, a pizza party for the winning classroom. The real prize: teaching students that reading is fun and is a skill that takes us all beyond the classroom. The goal: to make better readers, one link at a time!