Today, I’m thinking of a dilemma I’ve faced as a teacher of special education. First, though, let me backtrack.
I taught general ed fifth grade for two years. In those two years I had a decent number of students reading above grade level. They were voracious readers, ripping through Narnia and Harry Potter books like they were nothing. I also had a fair amount reading nearly two years below grade level. Their books were not nearly as riveting to them as the higher readers’ were. At ten years old, they were already of the opinion that reading simply wasn’t for them. They hit a roadblock, pulled over to the side of the road, and decided they wouldn’t go any further.
Now, back to special ed. The dilemma is this: I have students (in third grade) reading at an early kindergarten level. For a variety of reasons, some kids are stuck no matter what I’ve tried. Now, I’m not giving up on them, but I wonder if it’s only a matter of time before they start to give up on themselves.
In special ed, I’m yet to have anyone reading on grade level (although this year, one student is right on the cusp). Of yet, none of my students have said anything to me about this. Maybe they don’t realize. They’ll figure it out soon enough, though. When they do, what happens? Do they continue to push on in their formulaic books that they’ve read 100 times? Or do they become frustrated and decide, “Reading just isn’t for me.” Worse, do they arrive at the conclusion, “I’m too dumb to do this”?
It doesn’t help that the books on the level they’re currently reading are without much depth. “Little kittens run/Little kittens jump” may be fine for an 8-year old, but a ten-year old is going to have some serious misgivings about reading books like that. There’s definitely a major stigma attached to reading ability.
When students run into that roadblock, I’d like to think they’ll figure out a route around it. Most do go for it. I wonder, though, for how many more months or years they will. How long until they hit a roadblock that causes them to pull over, park the car, and say, “There’s no other way”?