Monday, July 7, 2008

IRD Fifth Week: Dayenu!

Last Wednesday evening, I finished the 5th week of my IRD teaching commitment, which mean that I finished the Early Summer Session.

I was supposed to reflect on the last week then, but what with United cancelling N.'s flight to Chicago O'Hare and the need to talk to two different people at the airline, plus my sister and my mother, and my other sister who called just to make sure she wasn't missing anything...well you know what happened.

Then I had a wonderfully restful fourth of July holiday weekend.
I do mean restful. Thursday I did some vacuuming. And I folded some clothes. But mostly I sat on the porch and read.
Friday, I read the whole morning paper, a chapter in Radicals for Capitalism and then I went to a movie and dinner with friends and the Engineering Geek.
Saturday I prayed on the porch and read, watched Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth, and read some more. I did some blogging, too.
Sunday, guess what? I read some more. Then watched Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. And then I read some more. And I blogged some, too. I took a short break from reading to go to the grocery store. That's it.

According to the Chem Geek Princess upon hearing our weekend's activities, we are becoming homebodies and fogies. Homebodies and Fogies. Doesn't that sound like a great book title?

It's ironic how much I have missed my summer reading time, all because I am teaching reading.

By the last week of that first session, I was feeling in balance. Teaching the lessons as IRD wants them taught was finally feeling like teaching them as I want to teach them. The lesson structures were feeling automatic and the "why's" of each part were in my gut as well as my brain.

I was also feeling very good about the progress I was seeing.
In the younger kid classes I saw great leaps in most children when it came to skills used to read, assisted reading, and independent reading with support.
For the older kids, I saw reading comprehension improve greatly in every child, reading speeds increase in most students, and more insightful discussions evolve over time.

The one part of the older student lessons that I was really questioning was the non-fiction study skills portion. Although I had been told that these lessons were beta-tested, I thought that maybe we were trying to do too much in too little time. I was nervous about the material and the rate at which we were supposed to deliver it. As I was doing the first few lessons, I felt like I was going at break-neck speed and I was really wondering whether the students were getting it.

I soldiered on as I was supposed to do. But I wondered about it.

In week 5 , I found that those students who came in unable to find the main idea in a non-fiction paragraph now could at least find one and state it in a few words or a phrase. I found that those who could find the main idea at lesson 1 but had a hard time stating why it was the main idea, could now not only state the main idea, but explain it. I found that those who came in finding the main idea and explaining how, but could not identify important details from the unimportant elaborations, could now point out the important details. And those who came in able to find the main idea, explain how they found it, and identify the important details, could now also follow the development of ideas in non-fiction writing over paragraphs and sections.

And I realized that for each type of student, each one came forth from my class with better skills than they had started. And that each one also took with him or her, an outline of skills for continued learning through the years of middle and high school.

This reminds me a bit of the song we sing each year at the Passover Seder.

Ilu hotzi, hotzi anu,
Hotzi anu mi-Mitzrayim, Dayenu!

If you had just brought us out of Egypt but not parted the Sea for us, it would have been enough!
If you had brought us out of Egypt and parted the Sea for us, but not given us manna in the wilderness, it would have been enough!
If you had ...given us manna, but not brought us to Sinai, it would have been enough!
etc. etc.

So in my non-fiction lessons it became:
If you had just identified the main idea, but not told how, dayeu! It would have been enough!
If you had identified the main idea, and told how, but not identified important supporting details, dayenu! It would have been enough!

Only this Dayenu! differed from student to student in the length of the song.
And for each student: Dayenu! It was enough.

I need to think about my perfectionism in my teaching this way.
By the end of the five weeks I had mastered the timing, understood the lessons more deeply, balanced my overcorrections, and Dayenu! It was enough.

Tomorrow as I begin the first week of the Late Summer Session, I can take those Dayenu verses and build on them as I move on towards the IRD promised land--which is really a place in time rather than space. The IRD promised land to me is coming to August 10th--my last teaching day, knowing that I have been successful, my students have made progress, and that I have learned new things about teaching reading.

Oh! And I'm so not from California, so sometimes I forget this one, final goal for August 10th:... And knowing I've had fun.

Dayenu! (It will be enough!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done! That's a good feeling when something new really comes together and becomes your own.