Through the end of last year and over the school holidays, I have been ruminating over an area of cognitive dissonance that our teams collaborative goal to raise reading achievement buts uncomfortably up against.
I want to believe that I am powerful and necessary as a teacher. That the very personal act of connecting with a student and actually causing new learning is an act of humanity, of caring in action. I want to believe that I CAN do this and even more that I NEED to do this for the good of the student.
However, last year, I had an intake of New Entrants (5 years old) that comprised a large group who had very low levels of developmental skills. Oral language was around 2 years below norms. They had no fine motor control, and almost no understanding of books or the concepts of print.
I wasn't the only one. The other NE teachers had a similar experience. Try as I might I struggled over 6 months to build the missing foundations for these students. I worked collaboratively with my colleagues to regroup students and try to create a more developmentally appropriate programme.
At the end, these children really hadn't moved anywhere towards the national standards, which now just seemed cruel and inappropriate. They were fairly oblivious to letters, didn't know any HFW and had no 1:1 pointing. In all ways they were still operating at the pre-reading level. On the flip side they had settled into the routines of school and formed friendships, they sat well on the mat, came to group teaching and played well with their peers.
On the other hand I felt there was a huge professional and pedagogical danger of just blaming developmental readiness. Doesn't it give us the perfect excuse for a student's failure to achieve. This is just victim blaming and at the end of the day, they are only 5, and I am the experienced and trained educator, so the responsibility for their progress or not is all mine. The research above has spurred me to accept my responsibility to engage in deliberate acts of teaching that cause learning.