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High Hopes

January 29, 2010

Today the sun is shining and the sky is a bright true blue.  The sun dances on the edge of the bare branches, making all of the ice glisten and sparkle.  Peering out the window, the light reminds me of summer, laughing down at me, inviting me outside.  Too bad it is only ten degrees.  But, this sunshine holds promise, hope.

Sarah and Katie take dance lessons at a studio fairly close to our house.  This is their second year, and they both love it.  I tend to see the same parents every week and I have made some friends in the waiting area.  There is one women who I chat with weekly, and this year we are also taking yoga together.  She teaches at the Community College that is located in the same city in which we live.  I have known about this since last year, and when I finished my Master’s Degree last August, I wondered if I should ask her about her job and how she got it.

Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I am a teacher.  Or, I used to be a teacher, before I had my children.  I subbed right out of college (mostly because I was planning my wedding and couldn’t be bothered to job search during that important planning time).  Subbing was hard but fun, however, I really longed for my own classroom.  I did a few long-term gigs for teachers who were on maternity leave and finally was hired in the same district that I had grown up and graduated from.  I taught on the same grade level as my own former teacher at one point.  Weird, I know.  While working at this school, I had many jobs.  I taught students at risk in small groups to start and then moved into classroom teaching.  I taught Kindergarten, First Grade, and Third Grade.  The last two years that I was there, I applied for and was hired to be a Reading Recovery Teacher.

Reading Recovery is a trademarked position.  School Districts are required to adopt the program, and must follow all of the Reading Recovery rules in order to claim that the district implements Reading Recovery.  It is also a very rigorous program.  Teachers are highly trained.  I had to take two graduate courses (and pay for them) which lasted for the entire school year.  During these classes, I was assigned readings, papers, and was required to participate in class in a variety of ways.  I was also required to bring in one of my students and teach a lesson behind a two-way mirror while my classmates and teacher critiqued my lesson on the other side of the mirror–three different times, with three different kids.  Plus, my teacher leader had to do six teaching observations during the year.  After the training year, teachers are still required to attend class once a month, teach “behind the glass” once a year and be observed three times a year.  It is a pretty intense program.  I won’t even bother telling you about the paperwork involved.

What a Reading Recovery teacher does is work with First Grade students who score in the bottom 20% on a specific literacy assessment called The Observation Survey.   I had four students whom I worked with one-on-one, for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, trying to help them catch up to their classmates in reading.  My job was to accelerate their learning in order for them to score in the average range for reading in their classrooms after 20 weeks of instruction.  Although the lessons are very structured, there is no set curriculum.  I had to take each child where they were and follow them in their strengths to move them forward.  Most of my job was problem solving.  The pressure to get them to the average range was astronomical.  But, oh, so worth it!  It was a gift to hold in my hands–seeing a child learn to read.  Amazing.  I loved it.

My favorite position was teaching Reading Recovery in the morning and half-day kindergarten in the afternoon.  It was perfect.  I still had my class, I didn’t have to share kids with another teacher (I did that when I was moved to teach first grade my last year of teaching–not fun).  Perfect.  I loved my job.  Even when I was sharing a classroom, I loved my job.  It truly was my passion.

Then I had a baby.

That changes everything, doesn’t it?  I wanted to stay home, but I missed my job, my career.  It was such a huge adjustment.  And a difficult one at that.  But, now I have been home for eight years.  Longer than I was employed at my old school.  I have made peace with being “just a mom” (can you hear the sarcasm?).  So, now I have to get a job.  I always assumed I would go back part time and just teach Reading Recovery.  Then my district got rid of Reading Recovery.  You can imagine how expensive a program like that is, right?  And in my old district they have a very high percentage of student who don’t speak English.  According to the Reading Recovery rules, you must take the lowest scoring kids into the program and accelerate them to grade level in 20 weeks in order for them to be “Discontinued” from the program.  Because of the language barrier, this is an almost impossible task.  Therefore, their Discontinuation Rate is low.  So, how do you justify spending all that money when on paper it looks like it doesn’t work?  You don’t.  Good-Bye Reading Recovery.

Now, there are other districts that are close by that have not gotten rid of this wonderful program, but I don’t know anyone in those districts.  I would be going in cold.  Which I could do.  But. I am not sure I want to work with little kids all day and then come home to my own little kids at night.  I just know that I would be giving the best part of me to somebody else’s kids and my kids would get the crabby, tired, just-want-you-to-be-quiet part of me.  That doesn’t seem fair to any of my family.  Including me.

So.  What about teaching college?  I did all of my research for my Master’s Degree on Emergent Literacy and Reading Recovery is all about Emergent Literacy, I guess I am an “expert” on Emergent Literacy.  I could teach people who want to be teachers how to teach little people how to read.  That fits!  I have a friend who teaches at a local University in the teacher training department, she wanted me to teach a Kindergarten Methods class a couple of years ago, but I hadn’t finished my Master’s Degree yet, so I couldn’t.  That fits too!  Emergent Literacy is so Kindergarten!

Now, here is what Emergent Literacy is for all of you non-teachers out there (I took this definition right from my thesis, but I took out all of the sources because of space):

Since learning how to read and write is directly linked with learning how to talk and listen, children begin learning the vital information needed to become literate on the day they are born.  As they begin to understand language that is spoken to them, they are learning many sophisticated components of our English language.  When children begin to verbalize thoughts through a series of sounds, they are adding to their definition of communication.  This occurs throughout early childhood, and eventually intersects with printed text.  Young children begin to pay close attention to print and stories before and during preschool and to some extent in early elementary school.  This little by little learning, which accumulates early knowledge of literacy, is called emergent literacy.  This early knowledge is the foundation, which children will build upon when they enter formal schooling and once formal reading and writing instruction has begun. Learning to read does not correspond to a specific age or a developmental stage that a child must reach.  Instead it encompasses a series of experiences and behaviors that lead to an emergent understanding of what reading and writing are.

(Okay.  This post is really long.  Sorry.  There is just so much background information that I think would be helpful for you to know.)

Anyway, I sucked up the courage a couple of weeks ago and asked my friend that I see in the dance studio waiting area how she got her job.  I explained that I really didn’t want to go back to the classroom.  It is so much work.  When I was a teacher before, I tried to get to work by 7:30 at the latest and I usually left around 6:00.  I don’t have that much time anymore.  Kids have stuff I need to get them to, and I need to get home to get to THEM.  She asked me if I had experience teaching Reading.  Huh?  Ahhh….why yes, yes I do!

Apparently, many of the students at her Community College do not pass the Reading Placement Exam.  There is a need for teachers to teach a basic reading course which would help them pass it.  Well.  Hmmm.  My experience is with 5- to 7-year-olds  Not really close to 18-year-olds.  In my head, I was thinking that this wasn’t really a good fit.  Shoot.  But when she said that she would talk to her good friend about the minimum requirements that are needed to teach this class, I thanked her and nodded and secretly thought, “oh, well….”

When I got home I kept thinking about it though.  Remember that whole SAY YES thing?  What if this is the universe POUNDING ON MY DOOR?  So, I thought it through.  I know how to teach reading.  I know I have many areas that I need to learn more about, that are specific to older people.  I like learning such things.  This Community College is literally 10 minutes away from my house.  I could ease in to this position.  I think the College folks usually hire people for one class to see how they do.  That would be a perfect transition for my family.  This college also houses a teacher prep program for another college that is not close.  So, if I start with this job (which it sounds like is hard to find teachers for) I could look into other areas later if this is not my cup of tea.  And, I could keep learning.  I could get my Minnesota State Reading License.  I could do more research.  I could maybe work on my PhD.  It might be just the thing to get me where I want to be.

Last night, we had rehearsal for our Winter Show Recital.  My friend gave me a little slip of paper with the minimum requirements listed, which I have.  It also had the name of her friend who is the Dean of Humanities, and that he is expecting my resume.  EEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!

So, here I am, jumping in with both feet.  I have been working on my resume since last night.  I called my career counselor and made an appointment for Monday afternoon.  I need to have my resume and cover letter done by then, so we can go over both and make them *perfect*.  I will be emailing both to the Dean of Humanities on Tuesday Morning!  Let the sun shine in!

I know I probably won’t hear anything until next fall, because Spring Semester is already underway.  I am just so excited to have a lead and that has kicked my job search into gear.  I need to get a job, and even if it is a full time classroom teaching position, I feel like I have finally begun the journey.

  1. January 30, 2010 6:58 am

    Not only was the universe knocking, dear, but you opened that door wide and smiled a huge smile of welcome while beckoning it in. SO thrilled for you! And don’t worry about perfect: just be yourself. Your enthusiasm is shining strong right now; it’s lighting up the very air around you!

    • January 30, 2010 11:14 am

      Oh, thank you Liz! I really do have my hopes up. I think this is what I have been waiting for to “fall in my lap” all along. It is so hard to find a teaching position with flexibility. And it is hard to raise kids without it.

  2. January 30, 2010 10:25 am

    So exciting, Megsie! First of all, I loved all the background information you gave on your former job (which sounds AMAZING) and then Emergent Literacy. Really interesting stuff. And I think it’s a total God thing that doors are opening – and that you are choosing to walk through them. I hope it all works out! I especially think you are wise to listen to your intuition and not jump into a full time classroom gig, if that’s not right for you and your family.

    Yay, Megsie!

    • January 30, 2010 11:15 am

      Total God thing for sure! I have been wondering how your mom’s surgery went. Did everything go well? How is she doing? And, how are YOU doing?

      • February 1, 2010 6:32 pm

        She’s doing great, thanks! Really really good, much less pain (it seems) than her surgery (for something completely different) in November. And I am good, too. We have Thomas in a new bedtime routine and it is rocking my world, mostly because I don’t have to sleep with a wiggly alligator in my bed anymore! I love it!

        • February 3, 2010 5:14 pm

          It is always good to have a good recovery AND to have your bed to yourself!

  3. February 1, 2010 5:30 am

    It sounds like 2010 just might have some incredible opportunities up its sleeve for you! Happy resume-editing, and don’t forget to celebrate once it’s sent off tomorrow. :)

    • February 1, 2010 9:13 am

      I really hope so! Who knows what will come of this, but at least I have a resume done now, so that hurdle is cleared :) I will celebrate tomorrow for sure! I will have five kindergartners here to help me!

      • February 1, 2010 9:24 am

        So I guess margaritas are off the celebratory menu then… hehe!

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