Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dear Mr. Falker

There are many events and stories which I feel obligated to share that took place during the month of May. I realize that I am quite behind in writing them.  However, their impact is still written deeply on my heart and I would therefore love to tell you about them.

The first week in May I was asked to conduct a reading seminar for the entire teaching staff of Hope Christian Academy.  This means it was around 40 teachers from pre-school through 9th grade.  I was quite overwhelmed at the prospect, not only because it was new territory for me, but because of the large range of ages and subjects represented by the teachers in attendance.  I was unable to prepare to my satisfaction due to the busyness of the days prior to the workshop.  I felt quite anxious the first morning.  With the help of several wonderful educators I had decided to focus on the areas of comprehension, fluency and vocabulary.  Skills that could be applicable across all subjects and grade levels.

I should have known better by this point, but I still over-prepared material.  I needed to be simpler, the whole "less is more" philosophy.  However, the teachers responded beautifully.  They immediately engaged in discussion and contributed questions, observations, and suggestions.  I was pleasantly surprised by their involvement.  I concluded the first day on vocabulary feeling much more confident about the next two days to come.  Teachers were asking for copies of my powerpoint and everything.

At the end of the third day I concluded by sharing my personal journey with reading and why I had become so passionate about teaching literacy skills.  I shared with the teachers my lack of interest in teaching literacy in college, and how the children of the VOH had changed that for me.  I choked back tears as I thanked them for allowing me the opportunity to work with their students and challenged them to continue to ensure our children can not only read, but read well.  I was surprised at the intensity of emotions as I felt the urge to reflect and share about my love for the students and desire for them to read.  It hit me that I had devoted hours, days, weeks, months towards this goal and it was so important to me that it continue.  My final contribution was to read them a story by Patricia Polacco entitled Thank You Mr. Falker.  The book tells the personal story of the author and her inability to read until her teacher Mr. Falker took the time to teach her in the 5th grade.  I closed the book with a heavy sense of finality and in a sense passed the baton.  I want to be that teacher, I want all of them to be those teachers who make the difference in a child's life.

Mr. Bulley, the education manager, asked the staff individually to share their reflections and thoughts on the seminar.  A few mentioned things they learned, but the majority gave personal reflections on me and my time at VOH. I was completely unprepared for this.  It felt like the goodbyes had begun.  I sat humbly on the brink of tears receiving their kind words and observations.  I was overwhelmed at their comments.  One teacher said that after the seminar the previous day he had gone home and gathered the kids in his community and told them he would teach them to read in the evenings, the secretary shared that she had observed my passion and wondered quietly where it had come from- she shared that she too was going to change her life's goals because of her work with the kids at VOH.  Other teachers suggested that reading be a part of the daily class schedule for primary students, one teacher brought up parent involvement and reading materials.  Honestly, it could not have concluded any better.  I left with such a sense of hope.  I came to the VOH to teach 6th grade social studies.  I didn't plan to implement or change anything.  I am so thankful that God allowed me to be a part of something much bigger.  Even when I started teaching reading classes I thought it was only about me and the kids.  God always thinks bigger than I do.  He had in mind something to begin to transform the school and the teachers as well.  I am overwhelmed when I look back and see how it all unfolded and the way in which I was able to play a small part.  The conversation about reading and literacy skills has started, and teachers, administrators, and students are taking part.  I couldn't be happier.

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