Interest + Opportunity = Motivation
For example, Laura (not her real name) was a 7th grader who had been in Title 1 since first grade. For one thing, a child should not be in a special reading classroom that long unless she has a learning disability, and then she should be in the special education classroom. Instead, Laura plodded through the same curriculum delivered by the same teachers every year, and because she didn't score well enough on certain tests, she went through it all again. No wonder she hated reading!
Toward the end of the year I was able to free the junior high kids from the computerized reading twaddle and get them into real books. I found a book that I knew Laura would love. It was about a girl who got on an all-boys sports team (her own dream) and it revolutionized her life.
Here's how it went: I found the book at a university library and brought it to school. As I handed it to her, I gave a little synopsis, then walked away. After just a couple minutes, Laura slammed down her hand and said, "Mrs. B, I love this book!" A couple minutes later, she said, "You gotta hear this!" and she started reading to me, telling me how cool this story was. I smiled and tried not to explode with joy!
A few days later she came in and said, "Last night my mom said everything has changed since I started reading this book. I'm doing my chores, getting my homework done and reading every chance I get." I was speechless. She even read walking down the halls at school. Remember, this was the girl who HATED READING!
Even though I had great success with Laura and gave her a vision of what she could do academically, I realize that my philosophy of teaching and learning is at odds with the public school machine. It would be another year of pain and suffering for us all...pain for me as the inflicter of nonsensical policies and pain for them as they endured it.
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