Let me be clear.
There are no magic wands in education.
There are not quick-fixes.
The instruction our students need in order to become authentically literate will require an ongoing, career-long commitment from us. We will never be able to consider ourselves, or our classrooms, to be finished products. We must adopt a growth mindset and find the courage to stretch ourselves continually.
And to find the energy to hang in for the long haul we must walk the tightrope between maintaining a sense urgency and operating with a sense of optimism.
A Sense of Urgency – For the children in front of us today, the stakes have never been higher. These children are counting on us. They cannot wait. The clock is ticking and their window of opportunity narrows significantly by the end of third grade. They need us to recognize that providing massive doses of authentic reading, writing, and discussion will be essential to their success, not only in school, but also throughout their lives. Whether or not our students become authentically literate will play a huge role in shaping their life outcomes. There is no time to waste. We must begin today.
A Sense of Optimism- At the same time as we recognize the need for urgency, we must also be optimistic. We can do this. It is not too difficult, too mysterious, or too late. Getting started will not require you to turn your classroom upside down. Improving our practices in the literacy classroom is not an “all or nothing” proposition. There are simple, sensible, and smart steps that every one of us can take starting immediately. These steps will help get our students doing more real reading, demonstrating higher levels of independence, making more meaningful connections through reflection, writing and discussion.
The Courage and Commitment to Act – Again and again we must remind ourselves that the decision to act and commitment to keep going are the difference-makers between success and some other outcome. As the wisdom of the ancient Chinese proverb reminds us, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
There are simple, sensible steps each of us can take today that will start to shape instruction in powerful ways. Each of us just needs to commit to name and act on our next step.
What will your next step be?