The fabulous Charity Preston shared this question recently on her Facebook page:
The responses from teachers were fantastic (click the screen shot above to read all the comments): a personalized alphabet chart, specific songs/books/movements, and a number of commercial reading programs (including The Letter People, which I adore!) Many people mentioned the need for starting the Response to Intervention (RTI) process and testing the child for a disability.
I agreed with all of the suggestions. And I also wondered this:
The teacher who posted the question is obviously jumping through every hoop she can to help this child understand letter sounds. She’s so dedicated that she’s even spending her personal/family time in the evenings seeking out the assistance of other educators. Obviously, the students’ lack of progress is bothering her and making her feel like she’s just not doing enough, and she’s willing to try anything. I empathize completely. And when I’ve been in her shoes, these were the questions that kept running through my mind:
Why do I worry that not getting all kids to master all standards at the same time means there’s a problem with them…or with me?
Who says that if a student can’t master a skill by a certain month that something is developmentally wrong or that I’m not doing my job well?
What expert mandated that all children must identify 10 letter sounds by the 6th month of their 5th year (or whatever)?
If schools didn’t group students by age, would I worry so much about learning disabilities?
Is it possible for me to ignore these artificial benchmarks and let kids grow and develop at their own individual paces?
When I say that I have lost sleep over children who were behind their peers, I’m putting that mildly. Figuring out why a child’s just not “getting it” has been no less than an obsession at times, and I think most teachers can relate. Parents, too. I have seen families worry themselves sick over the fact their baby is reading more slowly than his friends or not memorizing her multiplication tables as quickly as her peers.
Trying to make all students hit all the same goals at exactly the same time is exhausting. But there’s an enormous amount of pressure from school districts and states for us to do so. There’s no obvious alternative, and no teacher wants to let a child fall through the cracks and fail to make progress because she assumed the student would get it eventually. I just wonder how much good we’re really doing for kids (and ourselves) in the endless quest to get all students meeting the same benchmarks at the same time. Sometimes it feels like nothing more than an exercise in frustration.
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