I love teaching your child to read. I love crafting fun and engaging lessons.  I love incorporating activities that allow movement, discussion, and outdoor exploration.  However, the mandated professional development that is not tailored to my specialty removes time from my schedule and focus on teaching your child to read.

The countless professional development I attended in all my years could amount to an entire year of my life (possibly more).

The long drone of the administrator of the season with buzz words of the hour and the curriculum mandates of the year are filled with attempts at making the time fun or stuffing the staff with dried pastries, these never cut it.

I have yet to leave one of these and hear the banter of the teachers, “Oh my, I can’t wait to get back to my class and start writing in the new standards on my lesson plans!”  Or, “Wow, that was tremendous learning, I will be offering my students so much more now!”

And, if I feel bored and underwhelmed, I know the art, gym, and OT teachers, are worse than bored (is there a word for that)?

As a reading specialist, all I crave is my tribe.  I love talking about reading, books, ways children learn to read, Marie M. Clay, Reading Recovery, literacy lessons, loving the art of planning lessons and more.

There is not one single professional development I was required to attend, that caused me excitement, sent me rushing back to my room with new learning, and the exuberance to get back at it!

Usually, these mandated meetings, delivered by the administration to push yet more of the proverbial standardized way of thinking, teaching, and being with students and within schools, are, well, mandatory.

If I were to teach your child to read, highlighting the vocabulary portion of the lesson, here’s what I would do following that dreadful mandated professional development:

  • I would take this opportunity to share my story about my mandatory professional development, include the drama with my long face, my head slumped down over my arm, I’d sigh and say, “Have you ever felt this way one someone told you it was mandatory to write a story, clean your room, or take piano lessons? Mandatory often feels like something you  …” (in my mind I’d be thinking – forced to do or have to do or must do). Here is when I’d wait for a moment or two for anyone to jump in with a thought and we would go from there.
  • I would ask your child to show me their best drama performance of what mandatory looks like.
  • I would ask, what is mandatory in your home or life?
  • I would connect it to a book, topic, or subject that we had been working on, for example, “It is mandatory that you not spill food or drink on the books you read.”

Every single professional development I volunteered to go to, packed an education punch. Now I’m feeling exuberant! engaged them immediately in my new learning.

Here’s when I’m ecstatic to engage students immediately in my new learning.

Notice a bit of difference in these highlights on vocabulary part of lessons:

  • Teach vocabulary words in connection to text rather than in isolation. (Now, I’m inspired to go to my literature collection or the current book we are reading to select a few vocabulary words.
  • Teach vocabulary words that are slightly out of the scope of your child’s vocabulary use, these words are often referred to as tier 2 words. (I would be looking through that same book thinking that, what are some tier 2 words I could use to teach your child to read?)
  • Teach words, from the book, in a variety of ways, acting out, drawing, having students engage in conversation with others (playful with the teacher), “Ms. Ross, it is mandatory that you give me a candy when I’m done with my work!” Teach vocabulary words playfully, seriously, and most of all engaged with books (real literature, preferably the kind that wrinkles, has a certain library type smell, and you can flip through while fanning yourself!)

A standardized curriculum, scripted lessons, high expectations (whatever that means), and the constant crush of external factors, DOES NOT SERVE in creating engaging, authentic, curious, collaborative, able minded students, or even teachers for that matter.

I let this also be a reminder in my work of teaching your child to read or as a parent, so often there is more engagement, learning, and energy when the task is voluntary or chosen versus mandated.

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