At the end of May, my oldest daughter will be graduating from high school (sniff, sniff). Our local high school honors the top academic graduates each year by having a banquet. Through hard work, dedication and the opportunity of having top-notch teachers all through school, Kassie was one of these students who was recognized at the banquet last Sunday. Prior to the banquet, each student was to choose one teacher they felt had a significant impact on their life and write a dedication to that teacher. These writings were then placed in a booklet. Reading these dedications brings tears to the eyes. From an elementary school teacher whose kind words of encouragement at a critical moment in time to a tennis coach/teacher whose guidance shaped a young lady in who she is today, it was clearly evident on Sunday the life-long lasting impact teachers have on the lives of their students.
Of course all the dedications were beautiful. There was one dedication; however, that I thought was very interesting which pertains to my role in schools. It was the dedication Logan wrote about the impact of two of his English teachers in his life. This is Logan’s dedication:
“….The two people I would like to honor are Mr. Schaefer and Ms. Neyer. In 11th grade Honors English, Mr. Schaefer taught me how to be a good reader. This sounds like a ridiculous statement because I probably should have learned this in elementary school. What I mean is that I learned how to meticulously pick apart a novel, and discover the symbols, motifs, and themes within it. No book of literary merit is meant to be read at face value. When I transitioned to this senior year, I continued my English education in Ms. Neyer’s A.P. English class. Being in her class for the first time felt more like coming back from the weekend. Ms. Neyer amplified not only my vocabulary, but my literary mind as well….”
After reading Logan’s dedication, there was a chorus of agreement from the students at the table. I was so intrigued with the passion in which they spoke about the class and their teacher. Kassie said, “We never really knew how to read a book until we took Mr. Schaefer’s class- all of us, we never knew.” Later that evening she expanded by saying, “I didn’t know there’s a ’legit’ meaning behind stories. We didn’t know books had themes, we didn’t know books had symbolism…”
Next week we will be beginning our DIBELS Next assessments. Let me tell you, I am all about the data. I love the DIBELS, I love assessment… charts, graphs… I live for that. But reading is so much more than words correct per minute, as Logan so eloquently pointed out. Our screening assessments and interventions focus on access to text, which of course, is a very important first step. With all the focus on decoding and skill-based instruction, however, we should never really lose sight on what reading is all about. Somehow we also need to teach students “how to really read a book” before they reach the 11th grade. I wish I had some magic strategies to now share with you. I don’t. I do know, however, that Mr. Schaffer and Ms. Neyer are both very passionate in what they do and their passion spills over onto their students. They both also provide ample opportunity for engaging and high-spirited discussion (even disagreement) in an atmosphere of caring and acceptance.
I am so thankful for teachers like Mr. Schaefer and Ms. Neyer and all the teachers who continue to have a profound impact on all our students . So, sorry to be so sentimental in this blog posting. Sending your babies off to the next step in life tends to do that. In conclusion, know that during Teacher Appreciation Week, you are truly appreciated.