Ethical Considerations within Qualitative Research

In reading Chapter 3 of Patton’s book on Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods, I was given pause to ponder the ethical considerations associated with conducting research in a qualitative study. (I am sure there will be a section to read on this, but I am not there yet!)  In Ernest T. Stringer’s book on Action Research, I found information in Chapter 3 that briefly alludes to the importance of such in any research project one undertakes.  Of primary importance being that no participant in the study one is initiating should ever come to harm or wrongful consequence as a result of taking part in the research.  Stringer also talks about informed consent documents which are necessary prior to initiating the research, in which the following questions might be addressed:

* questions posed/statements given concerning the person’s right to withdraw at any time

* questions posed/statements given concerning the person’s right to refuse to participate

* questions posed/statements given surrounding the return of data collected after the study is completed

* questions posed/statements given concerning how the data is stored so that no one other than the official personnel can view it

* questions posed/statements given concerning ways in which the information collected could identify the person in a public way or be revealed in a way to others without written consent

As it was suggested to me by Martha on Monday morning that in my thesis data collection I might want to interview some of the people who contacted me about the essay I wrote which went viral, these ethical considerations have been thrust to the forefront (as I will now need to consider others than just myself in this qualitative study I am about to begin).  As such, I can see that very private, personal things will be shared with me that I will have to carefully consider and then write about.  It will be an exercise in discretion and respectful consideration of the opinions and stories I am privy to.  I am also interested in finding out what ethical considerations I must take into account in revealing my own biases and expressing my personal  intentions with this thesis.  I will pursue this in my reading of Chapter 5 of Patton.

 

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Informal Thoughts {On the Thesis I am Proposing}

The thesis I am proposing to write and research will be focused on kindness and love within education. I am particularly interested in reflecting on my own ways of loving and showing kindness and care within my calling as a teacher. I am interested in what love might entail for one individual teacher, that teacher being me. In particular, I am asking questions. Questions such as these: when love is the standard within the classroom, what does love allow? What doors does it open? What possibilities does it enable? What then happens when love is removed? What remedies are available to account for the absence of love? What ways does kindness and an ethic of care transform classrooms? Should there be a choice made between academics and love? Can both be chosen and still enable teachers and students to thrive? And if so, how is this accomplished?

 

But first, one might ask the following question: what is love? Is this warm, fuzzy, sweet-talking love that always pleases? Is this feel-good, low-pressure therapeutic love that focuses solely on self at the expense of all else? What is love, anyway? It means so many different things to so many different people. When I refer to love in my writing, I would want it to be understood to be that which is the deepest emotion known to humankind. Something so over-arching, all-encompassing and profound that it permeates our very being as educators. When I speak of love, I am talking about everything which is good in this world, which could be then funnelled into our being so as to inspire, motivate, compel, arouse, encourage, stimulate, provoke and stir up whatever might lie dormant within us. So as to awaken whatever might lie fallow. So as to stir to life whatever is ready for rebirth and development.

 

Love as an emotion is often highly undervalued in education. Certainly we embrace it in its place, but it is always put into a neat, little box and asked to sit there until it might be of use. It is not always on top of lists of priorities or main concerns when it comes down to the academic milieu.   In fact, love might very well be at the bottom of the list for some, as is often expressed by friends and colleagues. It is so often undervalued, as shown through statements that contend that it (love) is a lesser motivation for a teacher’s purpose in offering an education to their child. After all, our job as teachers is to deliver curriculum. To teach the standards. Expound the outcomes. We are expected to deliver on the core fundamentals of a solid education- the arts and the sciences. And in doing so, prepare our students for the workforce.

 

But what if love was the standard by which everything else was measured? What if love made me a better teacher? What if love made my students better students? What if love made people better, just through experiencing it?

 

What if the love I showed in my care and concern, in my kindness for students- what if it then allowed me to, in love, inspire them to have a passion for language, for prose? For nuances in words? A passion for poetry, literature and classical writing? What if love opened a door to enable me to share with my students a passion for mathematics? For precision and exactness? For reasoning and rationalizing? What if love paved that way? What if love gave me the inch that could buy a mile? What if love was what every foundation I built upon? What if love was everything? In everything, through everything about everything? What if love was the reason?

 

What if kindness was the channel to everything good we might know inside the four walls of our classrooms? What if it was the enabler? The spark that lit the fire?

 

Can we ever really know for sure if love is the catalyst in making the difference- or not-when we who have always known love are the ones calling for less of it? When we who have always had love at our fingertips are the very ones saying it is unnecessary? When we who are deeply loved, who have always had love at our disposal, are the very ones saying it is a drain on academics and learning? The ones saying it is keeping us as schools from excelling? And by what standards, might it be asked, are we failing to meet those academic standards? And if so, who are the ones who care the most about this demise? Truly it must be asked: are we really in any position to say that love isn’t necessary when we are the very ones who’ve always had enough ourselves? What if one person`s call for less love was the unravelling of that one student who could have been destined for great things, but because love was removed, then became a hardened, bitter being?

 

Who are we to say?

 

What I hope to accomplish with this thesis is to start looking for evidence that these questions I am asking are validating ones and that they are steering me in the right direction. I would hope that the audience I am writing for would be educators like myself who are striving to be transformational teachers as well and who want to ask hard questions of themselves along with similarly deep and penetrating questions of those practicing within the field of education. What I would hope to accomplish with this thesis, as has been discussed previously, would be to write a series of short chapters that might compile a book, which I would then hope to publish. I am eager and ready to start.

 

In speaking of fear. Here are a few thoughts I wrote recently which I will use to premise the more concrete fears I have in writing my thesis.

 

Fear and Love

 

Fear cripples. It kicks us in the gut. Knocks us over. Tries to beat us down. Tries to throw down, push down. Topple. Fear tells us, “You’re nothing. No one cares what you have to say.”

Fear wreaks havoc with our confidence. It says, “You can’t do this, you’re not able.” It taunts and laughs and mocks and ridicules. It jeers while looking straight in the eye.

Fear paralyzes. It grips the heart. It shouts, “You’re not enough.” Its raison d’etre, its very life work: is to destroy, diminish, decimate. Obliterate.

Fear often seems too big to face.

It intimidates, threatens, terrorizes, petrifies.

It overwhelms.

But Fear facing its greatest obstacle is no opponent able to stand.

When Fear faces Love, Fear crumbles.

Love is the opposing EVERYTHING to fear. Its equal and opposite.

Love is: patient, kind, humble. Gracious. Love is pure. Love is joyful, enduring, hopeful, believing. Unfailing. Love is victorious.

For Love conquers. Love wins every time. Love is in all, through all and over all. Love is everything. And Love looks Fear in the eye and says nothing at all. Because Love has nothing to prove. Love has no need to make a show. For Love has already won. The battle is over.

Love wins.

Love has already won.

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In writing a thesis, there is fear of unknowns. What will the process entail? Am I up for this? Can I really do this? Will I have anything to say that is worthwhile contributing to the breadth and depth of understanding out there in the wider world on ethics of care in the classroom? Will I ever finish this formidable assignment—and on time? What will it be like to defend my heart and soul in a formal Thesis Defence, before those with more understanding on the topics of interest than mine? Will I cave under the pressure? Will I faint?

My thesis is on love in the classroom. It is on Ethics of Care. I hope that in focusing on Love and Care and Kindness, I will bolster my own reserves of such and in so doing, resist the urge to succumb to Fear. I am hopeful that Love will win out over Fear in my own writing and reflecting. And that Fear will be used to perfect and better my impulse to Love, rather than to eliminate it. I want to feel Love’s presence- its comfort. Even in the face of fear. As well, in writing this thesis paper, I hope to better understand that Love enables those of us who desire such- to put Fear in its proper place; and to indeed do the very Hard Things of which we write. I would never wish for everything in my academic journey to be easy- I would never grow and change, if that were to be the case. Things we might even be petrified of are often pivotal to our greatest moments of growth and discovery. In facing our fears, we are better able to support the Love we want to win out in the end.

At least, that’s the hope that I cling to.

Thoughts on Qualitative Research

I focused my reading today on Chapter 3 in Michael Quinn Patton’s Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods, as I am going to be writing my thesis using a form of qualitative inquiry.  I found that the chapter I read was very informative, readable and useful to me in clarifying the different theoretical orientations, even though it was a brief overview for the purpose of introducing such.  I was particularly taken by a few of the approaches as I could see these forms of inquiry fitting in with my research questions centered around the ethic of care and pedagogies of love in the classroom and why they are of utmost importance in today’s school environment and the classroom milieu.  These approaches are as follows: autoethnography and evocative forms of inquiry (with foundational questions centered around the researcher’s experience and insights into/within a cultural setting), heuristic inquiry (with foundational questions centered around the researcher’s experience of a phenomenom as well as that of others who also experience the same phenomenom intensely) and narratology or narrative analysis (with foundational questions centered around the narrative or the story and what it reveals about the person as well as the interpretations and understandings that therefore arise).

I also appreciated the section on pragmatism at the end of the chapter as it notes here that not all questions are theory based and that some questions can be addressed without  placing the study in one of the theoretical frameworks found in this chapter.  One of the questions I had while reading through Chapter 3 was: how does one decide which theoretical orientation will work best?  And does one have to decide before hand (which theory best fits the research)?  Does that sometimes happen organically as the research unfolds?  And what of the overlap, as is the case when something doesn’t neatly fit inside one theoretical box, so to speak.

That being said, I found the form of inquiry I was drawn to the most was autoethnography as it has such a wide variety of divergent forms of inquiry.  Some of these orientations would include ethnographic memoir, ethnographic autobiography, ethnographic stories and narratives, self-stories, lived experience and narrative ethnography to name a few.  I feel that this very broadly interpreted orientation particularly resonates with me as I want to do something “different”.  I want this thesis to be very personal in nature and accessible to those who read it- and I want it to be read by not only those who are academics.  I want my narrative- my story to be read by everyday people. I want the themes in my thesis to translate to every day schooled experience as well as to life outside of school.  As such, I believe the theme of love and care are over-arching themes to which we all can find a connection, the world over.

I have great ambition.  But I also have my work cut out for me.

 

A Reflection on My Learning – Monday

Day One:

Martha and I discussed during the first individual reading session this morning the fact that my thesis paper should have a component of research within it to be considered valid and transferable to those who might some day read it; so it was with great interest that I read the article concerning the dilemma of practitioner research being compared to just being descriptions of classroom practice by Bartlett and Burton. It helped me see that qualitative research can often be questioned/tested within the realm of what might be considered to be ‘real research’.  It is thus important to know a few things about why this might be.

The article by Bartlett and Burton outlines the research of a group of teachers into their classroom practice. Their investigations, although critiqued, were in the end deemed as research. Practitioner research is thus a possible form of research, in spite of the critiques of such by other formal researchers. There are three P’s of Practitioner research: research conducted must be practical in importance, participatory in nature and peer reviewed in validation of findings. Practitioner research’s benefits would include the establishment of communities of practice to discuss and share experiences of teaching as well as the development of research skills. This article affirms that the research we as teachers do is “real” but we must remember to document what we do so as to validate our findings.

Therefore, within this article it was shown that there can be a tension between whether this type of research is just merely descriptions of practice or whether this research is truly done as an objectively designed research study.  That is- whether or not it is certified research.  It was argued that descriptions of practice do constitute the data sources for research projects. What distinguishes these descriptions as research is the following: critical questioning and appraisal that the teacher researchers and their communities of practice bring to bear upon them.

As well, we did a jigsaw activity and had different readers report back on other articles by Makoelle, Lyons and Cooper and White.  In those articles it was found that there were certain common themes:  teacher directed research seems to be the best approach to initiating an action research project, although it can work when initiated by the leadership; practitioner research is valid as long as it is well documented;  resources and time are always an issue; there can be a tension between whether or not certain action research projects are just merely descriptions of practice or if they truly are objectively designed research studies; it was also argued that descriptions of practice are what constitutes the data sources for research projects- what distinguishes these descriptions as research is the following: critical questioning and appraisal that the teacher researchers and their communities of practice bring to bear upon them; collaboration is key and things have to be in place (well planned); things can change over time and that’s okay; the challenge in conducting research is teacher buy-in: people have to feel it is relevant to what they are doing and worth their time in order for it to be effective; cultural considerations also need to be taken into account- and it must be noted: who are the participants?

Another useful activity that we did today was to form research questions with regards to variables within the school setting, variables over which we as teachers have no control.  Then we did the opposite- formed research questions based on variables over which we had some control.  Here are my five questions for each:

Questions: Variables we as teachers can’t control:

How does bussing access affect the learning enrichment of students in rural schools?

How does access to technology benefit student learning? Does it hinder student learning?

What is the effect of peer pressure on student learning?

What is the effect of reduced staffing on teacher output and productivity?

How does the relationship teachers share with their administrator affect teacher output?

 

Questions: Variables over which we as teachers have some control:

What is the relationship between happiness and job fulfillment?

What is the relationship between teacher stress levels and productivity specifically at stressful times of the year (September, December and June)?

How does one’s personal faith/beliefs/moral/character influence the way they do their work as an educator?

How does sleep and ways of well being (diet, exercise, etc.) impact teacher productivity?

How do addictions within the teaching profession impact best teaching practices?

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In closing, I found it useful to ponder the following variables as they allow for considerations to think about when forming questions for research are the following:  they are student variables, teacher variables, classroom variables, school variables.

Action Research: My Own Experiences

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The following are some questions and answers on my own personal experiences with action research at the school level.

What are your experiences with Action Research/Reflective Practice?

 

 

1.         What was the Project?

 

I have been involved in a few Action Research/Reflective Practices over the past number of years. As a teacher, I have been very interested in my students’ experiences with emergent writing, and as a result I had introduced writer’s workshop to my kindergarten students three years ago and I continue to offer it on an ongoing basis. I developed a way to monitor my students’ experiences through a table I created as well as through a checklist I adapted from Lucy Caulkins and Leah Mermestein’s Launching a Writing Workshop kit. I have also branched out to include book-making as the primary mode of writing we do in my classroom after having read research to support such in the book Already Ready by Matt Glover.

 

Currently, I am involved in a collaborative action research project through U.P.E.I. called S.A.C.K. (Schools Against Cancer- using a Knowledge to action process). We meet monthly during the school year, and have done so since January. Within this action research project, we have two facilitators from the university who come in and assist us as a team (a team representing both administration, teachers and students as well as one representative from Home and School) in finding ways to combat cancer and other forms of disease, as well as in finding ways to eliminate unhealthy living practices which might be evident within the school community, replacing them with the following: A 5-2-1 Almost None healthy living curriculum used within the classroom setting at the upper elementary level, continued offering of a healthy breakfast program to encourage healthy eating within the school community, the purchase of snowshoes to expand students’ interest in physical activity and the introduction of the Tribes program which focuses on mental health and well-being and which will be used in K-6 classes starting in the fall. Each member of the team is valued and has been given a role. This experience has been a very positive one for me personally in acquainting me with collaborative action research proper.

 

Our school undertook to launch a school-wide action research project in 2012-2013 with the introduction of the P.A.S.T. assessment. This assessment checks for phonological awareness in students and gauges their readiness for reading (or proficiency in reading) by providing a number of activities that would be appropriate at various grade levels. After standardized test results in literacy from the previous year were analyzed by the administration, the admin team consulted with our Speech and Language Consultant through the (at the time) Western School Board, Corrie-Urquhart Lynch. It was suggested that since phonological understanding was a foundation upon which all children learn to read, that all students in the school should be tested to see what their levels of readiness were. Throughout the year, we conducted analysis which was then plotted on a data wall and used to show growth. The project has given me personally the encouragement to follow through on the testing each year with my own new group of kindergarten students who enter the school each fall- testing them around each reporting period. Our school continues to use Data Walls to plot phonological readiness, reading levels and writing results from a writing prompt given to us by the ELSB.

 

  1. Who were the Participants?

I have already generally indicated the participants, but to reiterate: my students, a Literacy Coach and I were the participants in the first Individual Teacher Action Research project I was involved in. In the Collaborative Action Research project, it was two facilitators from U.P.E.I. and staff (one representative from the administration, four teachers, two students) as well as one representative from Home and School who were involved. And in the case of the School-Wide Action Research Project, it was the whole school, two literacy coaches as well as our school’s Speech Pathologist, Corrie Urquart-Lynch who were involved.

 

  1. What was investigated?

 

I have already expanded on this in my initial comments, in the first Individual Teacher Action Research project I was involved in the students were being investigated on their readiness to begin compositional writing at the outset and then throughout the school year. In the Collaborative Action Research project, it was our students and staff (together making up the school) who were being investigated for knowledge and evidence of healthy living practices as well as for awareness of the factors for prevention against cancer and how this can be done within the school setting. And in the case of the School-Wide Action Research Project, it was the students from K-6 who were being investigated for phonological readiness and competency as an indicator for why they might be performing poorly on the reading testing they had just come through during the previous school year as well as to promote phonological awareness for the current school year within which we were testing.

 

4.         How was it investigated?

In the first case, I investigated my students using anecdotal notes, informal records as well as case conferences and then later analysis of the data I collected. I also leaned on the ‘second voice’ of our school’s literacy coach in assisting me in this endeavor. I suppose you could say that the research I read was the ‘third voice’.

 

In the second instance of action research to which I have referred, the investigation took place primarily within a focus group where we were shown data on our school obtained (I believe) through S.H.A.P.E.S. research through U.P.E.I.. Using this data, we were able to make informed decisions about which routes toward wellness we wanted to pursue within our school.

 

In the third case of action research, the preliminary investigation took place at first during the administration meetings to analyze/discuss the previous years’ test results on reading scores at the Grade 3 and Grade 6 levels and then the investigation branched out to include the voices of our school’s Resource Department Heads as well as those of our school Literacy Committee. We discussed possible routes to pursue and decided to access the help of our Speech Pathologist who then suggested we introduce the P.A.S.T. test to every student, using it as a baseline. We took a day in the fall where the school’s two Literacy Coaches along with our two resource teachers took students out of classes one by one to conduct the test. The results were plotted and then shown on a data wall to create a visual reminder of students needing extra supports.

 

 

  1. How successful was the research?

In all cases, the research was successful. In my own classroom, I have seen great growth and development in my students which I attribute to the early introduction of writing workshop in the kindergarten classroom. These four and five-year old children are amazing writers. I have been asked to be part of department level kindergarten writing workshops for other K. teachers so as to tell them about the success my students have seen. It has been a very positive experience all around.

 

In the second case, we have not yet implemented any of the recommendations suggested by the team. We are planning on starting this in the fall. We have been allotted about $1,000 so as to get things rolling. We plan to get things moving again during the first month we are back at school.

 

With regards to the third action research project, there have been great improvements in our school with regards to reading scores. We have gone up in almost every case. So, the success of the P.A.S.T. clearly shows up in higher test results for our children. Furthermore, our students are also writing better as well, even though this was not shown to be directly impacted.

 

Action Research Reflections

Beginning ED 616:

  1. Focus:What are the main features of action research?  It is a process of collecting information for the purpose of diagnosing a problem, searching for solutions, taking action on promising possibilities and monitoring whether and how well the action research worked. It is site-based research and decision-making which increases the problem-solving abilities of individual organizations, like schools. The goal with action research is that we will be able to make more and better informed assessments as a result of action research’s impact on students learning opportunities.

2. Think about a place you work or where you engage in significant activities. What are some of the issues and problems you or others experience in this context?

Issues- bullying, low test scores, differentiated physical development, physical activity, physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being, writing (literacy), math (numeracy), phonological awareness, boredom, student engagement

Action Research Defined:

Individual Teacher Research- focuses on changes in a single classroom; a teacher defines a problem and then seeks solutions to that problem

Collaborative Action Research- focuses on problems and changes in a single classroom or in several classrooms; the team follows the same investigative and reflective procedures as the individual teacher-researcher.

School-Wide Action Research- a school faculty selects a school-wide area or problem of collective interest to be improved, then collects, organizes and interprets data on site. Data from other sources can be funnelled into the decision making process of the faculty who then determine what actions should be taken.

2. Reading:

(1) Stringer Chapter 1, pp. 1-35;

(2) Calhoun: Action research: Three approaches (an easy read that will help you answer the questions that Stringer poses, and that I ask you to write about)

3. Activities:

  • Complete the exercise on the page: Experiences with AR that I have emailed to you. The 5 questions are all on one page, but use additional space if required. Please print a copy to bring with you to our first class, or have the completed work available for viewing on your laptop/tablet.
  • To complete the following activity, I would like you to begin your own digital journal that focuses on your ideas and questions on action research. This journal can take any form you wish, although it must be written using some digital technology. If you wish you can print it, or have it available to view on your tablet or laptop. Bring your journal with you to our first class on June 30.
  • Write about some of the issues and problems you or others experience in the place where you work or the place where you engage in significant activities. See the reflection suggestions on page 34 of Stringer for further detail about this question.  In particular, I would like you to reflect on the last 2 bulleted points under Reflection:
  • How do the principles of action research fit this context? Will you need to change the way you, as researcher, interact with people? In what ways?

On my personal blog, I wrote a piece on boredom and curiosity and the relationship between the two.  You can find that piece here at http://pursuitofajoyfullife.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/on-boredom-and-wonder/. Action research could fit the context of this story I wrote in that I am talking about the challenge teachers have to preserve wonder and curiosity in the classroom even within the constraints we work under (such as outcomes, course schedules, school routines, rules and norms, school expectations, fixed lunch time and recess schedules, to name a few of the more obvious constraints). I might need to challenge myself a little to work on this particular goal by breaking outside the box a bit more. That is, in following a model of inquiry-based learning I am therefore letting the students be my guide. In watching their body language, I know when I need to respect their need for a change of scenery or a shift in position.  And when I hear the words, “I am bored” I know that I must change the direction we are heading in so as to make learning more engaging for all involved. So the research in this case would primarily be individual teacher research.

  • How might you change the way you usually operate of interact with people- eg. as manager, teacher, principal, health professional—in order to enact your researcher role?

As a teacher-researcher, I would change the way I interact with my students for the better in that I would be challenging myself to make learning more engaging for them. I would have increasingly more positive operations of interactions with them with this new focus on action research.

Link

Qualitative Research and Action Research

I will be starting, for the next little while, to keep a professional journal for my M. Ed. at U.P.E.I.    The upcoming journal entries concern my thoughts and reflections on qualitative research as it concerns action research, teacher practitioner research and qualitative methods.  Reflective practice in this course (and the writings I will do through this blog) will include my own ponderings on what research entails, what I have been doing in my classroom and how this relates back to my research- as well as what I take away from those reflections for future practice.

Happy October, all!

We are now five weeks into the school year, and my how time flies!  Your children are learning so much, and they are all such bright, inquisitive students!

Week One: Our theme was school and the bus, and also we started an author study of Robert Munsch books.  We learned new school routines, as well as how to safely travel to and from school on the bus.

Week Two: Our theme was new school friends and math patterns.  We learned how to print our own name, as well as that of our friends’ names.

Week Three: Our theme was fall.  We did a number of fall crafts, including a fall tree with “falling” leaves.  We have also started a sensory collection of fall scents and items to touch.

Week Four: Our theme was Thanksgiving.  We wrote and drew pictures of things we are thankful for.  We also started a new author study of Phoebe Gilman.

Week Five: Our theme was fire prevention and safety rules.  We had a visit from three fire fighters from the O’leary fire station who also gave us a tour of their fire truck.  We also learned that our homes need a fire safety plan in case of an unexpected emergency, like a house fire.

 

We are focusing on letter and number recognition, fine motor skills as well as social skills for co-operating within a community of learners (a.k.a voice levels and taking turns).  If you have any questions or concerns about your child or their learning, please do not hesitate to contact me through this blog, via a comment.  I will check in regularly to see if you’ve popped in for a visit!!

Welcome Back to our First Full Week of School!

We have two days under our belt now, and the children are settling in nicely to school routines, the layout of the building and classroom- along with acquainting themselves with staff and schoolmates.  Each one of them has already added personality and humor to our kindergarten room, and I am very pleased to be their teacher this year. I think we have many things to look forward to as we take this educational journey together.

Please do not hesitate to contact me during the school day at the telephone number given to you in your information packet as well as via e-mailing me through my Group-wise account.  I will do my best to inform you of anything that concerns me or your child as things happen during the school year.  I am very willing to work with you in the best interest of your child.

A reminder that the two homework activities during the week are the picture of an item beginning with the letter /Ss/ as well as reading to and with your child each and every evening.  This will give your child the foundations they need to begin reading on their own.  Please familiarize yourself with the links within this blog as they contain helpful hints on reading activities to do at home.

That said, I wish you and your child a great rest of the day.  I look forward to seeing them bright and early Monday morning!

March into another month inside our classroom!

I’ve been thinking a lot about literacy as it is the goal of our school to improve on this area of learning over the next number of years.  As a team, teachers and administrators as well as the Western School Board, we hope to take a balanced, holistic approach to improving literacy in our school.  Being a parent myself, I thought I would share some personal thoughts on the subject with you all.  Feel free to comment as you wish!  Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you all at Parent-Teacher Interviews.  As always, please feel free to contact me at the school at any time.

 

The Joy of Reading: A Personal Experience

I am cuddled in bed with my youngest.  This, after she has jumped all over the bed and I have calmed her down by rubbing cream on her hands and feet, a nightly calming ritual as much as the bedtime story we are about to read together.  Tonight’s selection, Stellaluna by Janell Cannon, is the story of a fruit bat separated from her mother after an encounter with an owl.  We have read this book before, many times.  We settle in, propped up by pillows to enjoy the read.  She listens attentively, pausing to ask questions when necessary.  I read, holding on to this quiet moment.  It is a rare treasure to sit quietly anywhere, what with our typical busy family life.

I love this time of the evening.  It is special time, alone time, just the two of us sharing an imaginary world found between two slipcovers.  We are transported to places far away and dreamy.  I wonder, as I read, where fruit bats really live.  My daughter wonders about the trees in the illustrations and why they have been drawn to look like poles instead of the leafy green towers of strength we are accustomed to here in P.E.I.

Down the hall, my two daughters are reading their chosen books.  My second youngest is waiting for a turn at the read aloud, and she comes down the hall to check on me.  “I’ll be down to read to you next,” I reassure.  My older two no longer need me to read to them, although occasionally I still do.  For old time’s sake.

The benefits of reading to children, according to all kinds of research conducted by many institutes have been found to be exponential.  We see as teachers in the school system.  Consistently, those children who have been read to or encouraged to read at home, are the ones whom meet grade level requirements and beyond.  And yet, so often reading is shoved to the back of the agenda in the after-school slate of activities.  We can find time to do most everything else, but read to ourselves and our children, it seems.  And our children are finding the same: reading is often as much of a chore as it can be a bore.

We must do better than this.  And we can!  But it takes commitment and practice.

I was talking to a friend today about my newest interest in blogging, and she made mention of my lengthy posts.  “I see how long it is, and I just have to say “sorry”, it’s too long to read!”  I realize that there are many valid reasons for why people choose to read some things and not others, and that not everyone can take the time to read a personal blog.  But it got me thinking: we live in a fast food/fast fix society, and most of the time, we are not afforded the luxury of slowing down our busy schedules enough to read anything more than a headline, synopsis or summary.  We want the bottom line, not the explanation.

In a world where life is expected to be a blur of commitments, expectations and time on task, isn’t it a wondrous pleasure to take the time to read, word for word, line by line; savouring each pleasurable description as if it were a tasty morsel, instead of just cramming it down one’s throat for the sake of sustenance?  The utter joy of reading and the ability to read and comprehend: it is a pleasure and privilege beyond comparison.

I check in on my son.  Over the past month, I had read to him some of the classic, Swiss Family Robinson,  but of late we have not had time in the evenings to do so.  He goes to bed later now, and we do not always take the time to read together.  Tonight, he is under the covers and settled in for the night with a book on dinosaurs that he got from our church library.  I ask him if he would like for me to read to him.  He is intent on his own reading and barely lifts his head.  That is to be expected of a serious reader, engrossed in another world, another time and place.  I leave him to do what I have always had as my goal: allow him the pleasure of independent reading.  Although I will not read as much to him in time, I will reap the benefits of having read to him as a child for many, many years to come.