Good Teaching is An Expression of Love: My Approach to Reading Instruction
Updated: Oct 3, 2022
I am by training a speech-language pathologist and previously spent a decade in New York City public schools. During this time I noticed that my speech students almost always struggled with reading, and they almost never “closed the gap” to catch up to classmates. This sparked my interest in and passion for explicit instruction in literacy. After attending workshops on Wilson, The Writing Revolution, and other programs, I decided to become trained in Orton-Gillingham. I am currently an Associate Member of the Academy of Orton Gillingham (60 hours of coursework + 100 hours of practicum) and am working towards becoming a Certified Member (100 hours of coursework + 200 hours of practicum) .
If one were to start small drill down on the way reading is instructed in elementary schools, as recently discussed in The New York Times and The New Yorker, they’d likely find students were not explicitly taught how to decode. Part of the reason my students- and many others- never closed the gap in reading is that they were never actually taught to decode with many of the curricula currently on the market.
Yes, it is true that there are a variety of barriers to student achievement, but there is also an assumption about what happens in classrooms. Blaming social skills or economic instability alone assumes that the instruction itself is flawless. In reality, if one were to magically remove social-emotional barriers, many students still would not achieve because the actual instruction is not occurring.
I re-encountered this debate a few weeks ago on my social media account. I had posted about the New York Times article referenced above. The title of the article is “School is for Learning to Read.” I posted the following quote by the author, Emily Hanfofd: “The most important thing schools can do is teach children to read. If you can read, you can do anything.” A user commented:
"I disagree. I would say the most important thing schools can do is create a sense of love and belonging for children, where they can feel connection while being authentic to themselves. And if you can feel love and belonging while being authentic, then you can learn anything."
I almost agree with this individual, but I would need to add one more phrase, so that it reads, “And if you can feel love and belonging while being authentic, then you can learn anything if you are taught it”. A wise professor also advised me that good teaching is an expression of love. Through our reading instruction, we can show students love, build their feelings of self-worth, and maybe even ignite their own interest in and passion for literacy.