09 Oct Slice of Life: The Child Before the Number #SOL18
In graduate school, I learned that team meetings or conversations about a child should always focus on the child first and foremost. I was taught that a person is not defined by his or her diagnosis or difficulty. In class we would catch each other, forgetting to say the child’s name first or focusing on weaknesses rather than strengths. Lately, I have been thinking I need to remember this philosophy in schools when discussing assessments. Often I hear entire classes described in levels, students by benchmarks and schools in terms of risk categories. These descriptors are labels. They do not help us understand the needs of the learners or give us the information we need to teach them.
In our data meetings, we focus on the readers – their interests, personalities, goals, and learning styles – first. We then use any quantitative data we have to confirm our theories about the reader or push us to consider new ideas about the reader. We resist describing our readers by levels or benchmarks. Instead, we talk about the type of texts a reader may benefit from and why they would benefit from these texts. We discuss a range of text levels, types and lengths and think about finding a balance of text complexity that supports and scaffolds each reader’s development. We think about how they approach text and how to use their strengths to support new strategies and skills. A reader’s strengths, motivation, purpose, and engagement are at the center of our conversations.
The reader needs to be considered first. We do not teach levels or benchmarks, we teach children. Levels and benchmarks are tools and guidelines to help us plan a meaningful and authentic journey of literacy development. Maya Angelou said, “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” Our students’ voices and our voices need to infuse data with deeper meaning. When we take the time to collect, analyze, question and use data to truly understand our readers we can move beyond numbers and guarantee the person comes first.
How do you ensure the focus is on the reader and not the number? We would love to learn from you!