I am saddened to say that during my teaching degree, I didn’t learn how to teach every child to become a successful reader and speller. During my training, I was led to believe that children learn to read by looking at the word multiple times and that this would help them to commit that word to their long-term memory.
Once I moved into the classroom, I learnt, as did many other teachers, to teach using a balanced literacy approach. It was the 90’s. A smattering of phonics and fully-fledged guided reading sessions were the order of the day.
I went to school every day to make a difference.
I truly believed that I was doing the right thing for my students.
There’s no sugar coating it
Fast forward many years and there’s simply no way to sugar-coat the fact that when in my school leadership role, I came to realise too many students on my watch weren’t progressing in reading and writing as we suspected they were capable of.
Whilst my hunch told me spelling was important, I was unaware of the extensive body of collective research (the Science of Reading) proving how all brains learn to read and spell. Not just the dyslexic brain, but every brain. This is what led me to undertake years of research and professional development both nationally and internationally.
When we know better, we do better
I’m not going to lie, as I got deeper and deeper into the research although it was so enlightening, I became disappointed. Why had I not been taught this? And when I realised this was not 'just another pendulum swing', I went through somewhat of a grieving process as I changed my previously embedded ways to embrace an evidence-based approach to reading and spelling based on the Science of Reading – this approach is Structured Literacy.
I continuously asked, "If much of this research has been around for many years, how did I not know (or why was I not taught) this from the beginning?!"
We all want to get to the same destination
I am now a fully-fledged Structured Literacy advocate. So much so I have established a company here in New Zealand that is founded on its principles. We have even developed a platform to seamlessly integrate a Structured Literacy approach into schools for those that are looking to make the shift.
As a passionate and committed influencer for Structured Literacy I know not everyone shares the same view that a Structured Literacy approach is THE right direction for ALL.
I do believe though, that we all want to get to the same destination which is to positively impact all our students. We just might be sitting in different carriages on the education train.
I feel privileged to find myself in a carriage alongside many other driving influencers who share our knowledge and passion to help steer the direction for literacy achievement in New Zealand towards a Structured Literacy approach.
I recently chatted with The Reading League’s Laura Stewart and we discussed the different carriages of this train and a few of the reasons there may be hesitancy to move through the carriages.
So where do you sit on the train?
Maybe you’ve seen it all before and believe it is just another pendulum swing, and so this is the carriage you are currently sitting in.
The carriage you're in may be reflective of your need for more knowledge and understanding of the Science of Reading and Structured Literacy. And there's SO MUCH information out there (some conflicting), it’s hard to know where to go. If you are looking for more information, be mindful of where you look and make sure it is reliable (I’ve popped a few links at the bottom of the blog that I use as trusted sources).
Or you may be in the same carriage as me, hoping to help steer the engine toward a Structured Literacy approach.
Whichever carriage we're in we MUST be mindful of where each other is sitting
Being supportive, open to discussion, listening (with the intent) to understand the perspective of where each other is sitting on the train will make the biggest difference. Because at the end of the day the greatest resource that will influence any shift is the teacher.
But what’s going to be the proof in the pudding for most is when we see REAL RESULTS.
So, I encourage you to continue to share the real examples of how Structured Literacy IS making a difference for students in your schools.
And I hope one day the train with many many carriages will finally reach its destination where we align our knowledge and practices, so EVERY child can become literate.
Here are some of the links mentioned during the Chit Chat, and other links that offer solid guidance with The Science of Reading and Structured Literacy:
The Reading League (Facebook page)
The Reading League Teacher group (Facebook page)