Since I can remember, I've loved reading.
Because my love of reading is so well known, and because I strongly advocate literacy and education, it comes as a surprise to many that I hate “reading” as a subject in school.
It was painful back when I was in seventh grade and subjected to it, and it's been painful this year as my son has struggled with it. I rarely oppose teacher recommendations, and I don't often take issue with the curriculum because I'm just so happy that I'm not homeschooling or paying ridiculous amount of money for private education. Teachers aren't paid enough as it is, and most of them are heroic in their efforts to educate our children.
But I sort of lost it a little bit as we began planning my son's schedule next year. Since he reads several grades above level, and he's on the honor roll, I figured there would be no problem obtaining the teacher recommendation for him to take Spanish next year instead of another of reading class. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
My son has not enjoyed reading class this year. He's doing fine in it, but he doesn't try all that hard, and he's bored. He finishes reading assignments well ahead of most of the others in the class, and the activities that are supposed to make reading “fun” for non-readers don't hold his attention because he thinks reading is fun all on its own. Or at least he thought it before taking a reading class.
He came home excited about taking Spanish, and sure that his good grades would ensure a recommendation. However, his reading teacher thinks that everyone should take reading class through the next grade level, and won't give anyone in his class a recommendation for a language course. I wrote an email to the guidance counselor, asking how we could obtain a recommendation. She wrote back indicating that she stood behind the reading teacher's recommendation for another year of reading, and tried to assure me that waiting another year (or even two!) wouldn't put The Boy “behind.”
This, in part, was my response to that suggestion, spelling out why I don't want another year of reading class for my son:
(The fact that the guidance counselor referred me back to the reading teacher, by looping her in so that she could see this, is a rant worthy subject for another day.)
At any rate, the reading teacher gave a load of BS about developing higher-order thinking skills and how the reading class would help that. We're talking about a kid who has called out gender inequality in the past, debates his grandmother about evolution, and is interested in LGBTQ issues and follows current events. I think he's fine with abstracts and higher-order thinking — allowing for the fact that he's 12 — without the need for reading class to help him out.
The good news is that we do have an option. I can fill out a form overriding the teacher recommendation. And I'm going to fill that form out. My son is going to take Spanish next year. One year of reading class is enough for anyone. Actually, for kids who are already avid readers, I'm not sure it's needed at all. I know I felt like my own reading class was a waste of time.
My dad, an all-around awesome guy, and I talked about it the other day, and I explained his ideas when ranting about the situation with my friends on Skype.
I also talked about some of the disturbing things my son sees when they get into reading class “literature circles.” Sometimes there's a little bullying going on in these circles as some of the kids who are a little better at reading and comprehension lord it over the kids who might be behind a little bit.
Changing the whole idea of reading class is what I would like to see. Reading class should be about helping the kids who are behind get up to speed and learn the skill in a practical, applicable manner. And there's no point in forcing it on kids who already have a pretty good handle on things to go through it.
But no matter how hard I think I have it, at least I don't live in Oklahoma.