Any of my readers who are from Michigan and are part of the education world knows the M.E.A.P. is upon us. After our students were done taking it today I had a great conversation with our special education teacher. He asked my opinion on if I thought the M.E.A.P test was one big reading test. His justification was the students basically have to read everything, even the math and science portions of the test. He continued to back his claim by explaining the science portion of the test is informational text that must be read by the students to answer questions. As I stood there listening, I can’t say I disagree with my colleague.
As we continued our conversation he asked a question of me that I am not sure I answered correctly. That is, if there is a right answer. He asked why reading isn’t taught anymore. What he meant was why isn’t it a separate class. I reassured him I do teach reading in my classroom. Not disagreeing with me, the conversation turned quickly to a discussion on how language arts classrooms are set up completely different than what they used to be. At one time reading its self used to be a separate subject taught in schools. English was basically writing and grammar. When I was in elementary school I vaguely remember, but I do know this was the case. We always received a separate grade for reading and English. Now, there are many reasons I could list here for why the two are combined and taught as language arts. I believe the biggest reason is because of the connection between reading and writing and how they go hand in hand. Ok, I am a language arts teacher, a reader, a writer, and I am on board with this. However, here is the dilemma I proclaimed to my colleague. We have seven hours in our school day. Each of those seven hours are divided approximately into 55 minute blocks of time for teaching. Being a language arts teacher, I barely have time to breathe because of everything I have to get through. Maybe my colleague is right, reading should be separated again into a separate class. As I have discussed before in my blog, I am struggling to find that balance with my students. I don’t think it is beneficial to my students for me to do a reading unit without there being some sort of writing assignment connected to it. For me, this is a no brainer, but how do I have time to do both reading and writing instruction in a 55 minute time slot. Oh, and I have grammar to teach.
Taking all of this into consideration, I still don’t feel the pendulum will be swung back to the way things used to be. Reading probably won’t be taught as a separate entity. With continuing education cuts across the nation and other professionals I know, who are my NWP colleagues, they are feeling the same pressures I am feeling. I am going to be keeping a watchful eye on how my classroom transforms over the next few years and how other classrooms transform.