What a year is has been! For my own school it has been a year of embedding and consolidating evidence-based practice with some very encouraging early results. We are showing that the most disadvantaged students can learn to read and write when given systematic and explicit instruction, even when there aren’t books or rich conversations at home.
In my personal life I have had an exciting year establishing my blog and website. In the past 12 months my site has been viewed over 130 000 times and 84 000 people have visited. To me that’s 84 000 opportunities to support other teachers and let them know that they are not alone in their teaching. Advocating for change can be a lonely business at times, particularly if you feel like yours is a lone voice in the wilderness. Change can be frustratingly slow with roadblocks sometimes an everyday occurrence. Sometimes those roadblocks are caused by our own inadequate pre-service teacher education, sometimes by the very schools we work in. When this happens, it is important to have a tribe of people that you can connect with and a place to go to learn and be affirmed. My hope is that my site and can be a part of this for you.
As you reflect on the year that has been, be proud of the accomplishments that you and your students have achieved. Growth, no matter how small, is to be celebrated. For many students, the difference between a year of growth and a year of standing still is you. These are the students who absolutely need specific, systematic and explicit instruction to learn to read and write. In a whole language or broad instruction classroom these children flounder and fail and the emotional toll on kids and their families can be devastating. When you feel like giving up, when you doubt yourself (because we ALL do), when you wonder if it’s all worth it, think of these kids and their parents. No family should have to spend thousands of dollars on tutoring to have their child learn to read. No child should dread going to school because they feel that they can’t be successful in their classrooms. The way to prevent this is to make sure that our Tier 1 instruction is as strong and grounded in evidence as possible.
Over this Christmas break, spend time with family and friends, rest and relax. Give your brain and heart a break knowing that in 2020 we will regroup with our teaching tribe (both in our own schools and across the world) to continue to advance the cause of effective literacy practice. And in the small, still moments when the doubt monsters and worry birds gather be assured that you are not alone; that right here is a group of people who have your back.
I want to say a personal thank you to my family, mentors and colleagues for your ongoing and unfailing support. Thank you to all of the people who have sent me emails and messages letting me know how my work has impacted you and your classrooms. I am humbled knowing that something that I feel so passionate about is making a positive difference to the world.
From my family to yours, I hope that your Christmas is a restful one filled with love and good cheer.
I look forward to connecting again in the New Year as we step forward together to make a difference in the lives of children.
All the best and kindest regards