Reading Corps: A Classroom Perspective

CYC’s Master Coaches are a critical part of the Colorado Reading Corps program. All former teachers, these staff members bring a wealth of passion and experience to CYC’s unique literacy program. Below is an interesting interview with one of our Master Coaches who provides insights into the joys and challenges of teaching.

Q: What made you want to become a teacher?

A: My mother was an educator and for the longest time I resisted following in her footsteps.  However, one summer I worked for a non-profit science education group where I helped organize teacher trainings and I saw firsthand how exciting education could be so I went back to school to get my teaching license.  It was a life-changing decision.

Q: What has been your favorite part of teaching?

A: Being with the kids!  They are smart, funny, free little beings full of life without all the barriers we internalize as adults.  They give me perspective on life and remind me how precious it is.

Q: What was most challenging about being a teacher?

A: It is challenging to see what children face in this day and age: poverty, immigration issues, broken homes, parents who are struggling themselves, and media images/news. It can be daunting, but keeping your classroom a positive and welcoming place is some comfort.

Q: Help us understand the challenges that come with a classroom when kids enter your grade not reading on grade level?

A: The stakes get higher and the gap is getting wider.  One’s energy is divided even more when you have students at such disparate places in one classroom.  The kids in the middle receive the least attention because you have to work harder with those who are so far behind.  It can be difficult to do when you have a large class and are by yourself.

Q: What are some reasons that kids come into your class behind?

A: There are a million reasons and not one that we can hold up as the “cause.”  Some are learning a whole new language, some are coming from homes that do not have the resources or time to give their children books or the experiences that enrich their lives; they are in survival mode. Some students have a different way of learning and may need a special approach. Some may be abused, neglected or both. 

Q: How do you respond to so many different levels in your classroom?

A: It is very difficult and takes a great deal of planning, energy and reflection.  It takes the work of the classroom teacher, his/her grade level team, the school and the entire system to keep striving to learn more about how we learn, best practices and how to respond to the results one is getting.  It means, as an educator, you can never really say, “I’ve got this!” because there is always another kid to reach, a new element to teach, so one has to be comfortable in the journey and knowing that you are never really caught up or “done”.

Q: Why is it so critical to provide one on one support like that which is provided by Colorado Reading Corps tutors?

A: This is possibly the only time in a student’s day when someone is focused on the individual and their specific needs. What a gift!

Q: What else do you think we as a community could be doing to help kids who are behind? What about to help families?

A: I think we need to look at our educational system differently.  The model is still basically the same as it was when I was a little girl years ago: one teacher in one room with a group of kids. I think we need to look at year-round schooling, team-teaching, diverse groupings of kids, and inviting the public into our work more often to share their expertise with kids so they can connect more easily with our world. Kids need to be able to see themselves in new situations to be able to grow into them with caring adults who can see their potential. We also need to show more kids options other than the college track because there are many great ways to be successful in the world without going to college. We need to strengthen apprenticeships and access to professions that require alternative training routes. And, I think it would be really exciting if, as a country, we put into place some kind of required service after high school, not military service per se, but AmeriCorps or similar, where kids get the chance to see how they can make change first hand. Wouldn’t that be cool?