Every administrator wants to increase student achievement, but, unfortunately, some school leaders toss around the “We’re all reading teachers” phrase at their staff PD and think this covers the literacy goal on their school improvement plan.
I can’t blame them for their intention, yet it’s not exactly true. In fact, a large number of the teachers I work with—both ELA and not—cringe when they hear this statement.
At the secondary-level, College of Ed students are generally not taught how to teach students to read; instead, we’re taught what to do with students once they already know how to read.
So, unsurprisingly, this blanket statement feels like it’s quilted together with threads of pressure and unrealistic expectations. Who really thinks an Algebra teacher is going to instruct kids about diphthongs and morphemes let alone ask students to write lengthy narratives about the two parabolas who met along the X and Y axis? It is ridiculous.
Let’s get this straight.
When we talk about literacy instruction in the content areas, it only makes sense when literacy
1. supports content mastery
2. takes on discipline-specific flavoring
Yes, reading, writing, speaking, and critical thinking are essential to student achievement; however, students also need to become masters of the content.
If my US History students construct well-organized essays with detailed word choice, that’s great. But if they drop the ball on the content, what’s the point? My students need to use writing to appropriately convey meaning and address academic vocabulary. (I’m talking about the two kids in first semester who thought that “separate but equal” in the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson case actually “ended racism.” OMG. Thank the Lord for rewrites.)
Literacy can only enrich the disciplines through authentic methods.
Otherwise, it for naught (unless you want to count that dog-and-pony-show your shady colleague puts on for administrative evaluations).
To identity these authentic methods, we first must consider what our disciplines do for students in the long-term. Sure, it’s great that your students can discuss the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration, but science teachers—and all educators—need to explain how their content prepares students for the opportunity to engage in college, career, and civic life.
And that’s just the beginning.
If you’ve heard the “we’re all reading teachers” statement from your administrator or—Gasp!—from your own mouth, consider crafting professional development workshops that provide practical strategies and techniques for teachers to dig into the authentic work of their disciplines.
As a teacher and edu-consultant, I would love to work with you to design PD that supports your staff’s needs and mends the damage of this myth. Check out my workshop offerings and experience, then let’s get in touch before summer break sneaks up on us!