Monday, November 22, 2010

Lifelong Literacy and the Changing Face of Reading

Last week was absolutely nuts...a good kind of nuts...but nuts just the same. 

Last week was so nuts that I'm going to continue my trend of breaking my own rules
This week my blog is going to be somewhat of an academic blog :)
But, in a good way, I promise.

The chaos started when several months ago I was notified that I would be receiving the Humanities Teacher of the Year Award for my school.  This award is sponsored by the Humanities Council for the state of Mississippi and I was honored and humbled beyond words to receive it.  I had to prepare a 30 minute presentation which took place this past Tuesday and I will also have to attend the statewide award presentation in February.  My parents attended the ceremony, reception and luncheon as did my middle and youngest child, Soccer Boy (representing my firstborn who was on a Senior field trip), the administrative cabinet from my school, faculty and students as well as a host of local media, a representative from MS Humanities Council and a representative from the governor's office.


Now that you've got the facts, let me give you the "real deal" Peppermint style ;)

I am not a fan of acolades.  I'm going to do what I do no matter what.  It's nice to be recognized but not at all necessary in my book.  I almost get that silly??

I LOVE a captive audience.  My students would roll their eyes at this statement.  I do not get nervous about speaking in front of people...not even this kind of crowd.  I think that stems from my passion about what I do.  I'm that sure that what I'm saying is what the audience needs to hear. 

The title of my presentation was "Lifelong Literacy and the Changing Face of Reading." 

I can talk about literacy with my eyes closed.
If I couldn't, then I would hope someone would show up to take my Ph.D. away.
I mean that.

My stand on literacy is not always popular with fellow teachers because I believe at least part of the problem is what is not going on in the classroom. 
Students enjoy hearing someone finally say that the problem is not because they are so "dumb," but faculty, not so much because that means they've got to examine themselves a little closer.
Effective teachers examine themselves and their classroom practices constantly and adjust things as needed.
Ineffective teachers...well...they don't.

Before any fellow teachers out there who stumble on my blog get their hackles up, I do not think the fault lies completely with ineffective teachers.  And, some ineffective teachers are ineffective because of local, state and national policy constraints. 
One of the local media asked me point blank "Whose fault is it that literacy levels nationwide are so low and that each year more and more students who graduate from high school need remedial education when they enter college?"

Holy Smokes! What a question.
A good question, but certainly a scary one to answer.

I told her there are too many variables to point fingers in one direction. 
But, the system itself seems to value test scores more than student learning.  Until that focus shifts, the literacy situation in our country is not going to improve.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Just for fun, here's a shot of me telling my story...

More tomorrow...


  1. Congratulations! I agree, we've gotten off track with teaching our kids what they need to know because we are teaching them how to pass a test. It's one of my soap box subjects so I will step down now :)

  2. Hi there. I am an infrequent visitor to your blog. I enjoyed your post today as I am a big fan of reading and books. I am curious-do you see any type of link or correlation between the current problems with literacy and the influence of electronic devices/media and their use by young people?

  3. Actually Lisa, I don't see a correlation there...the electronic devices are the mode through which literacy happens...similar to stone tablets, parchment, slates of the past. As the world moves on, students have to learn how to move on as well. If what we're teaching in the classroom does not match the literacy skills our students are expected to be able to use in today's world, then we are not doing our jobs. I will actually talk more about this later this week...Thanks for visiting ;)

  4. Congrats on the award! I know the tests are important to generally see how a student/teacher/school/etc is doing but I agree that teaching just to pass a test is hurting overall literacy. I should qualify and say my opinion comes mostly from teacher friends and general news stories on the subject but not from any firsthand experience.

  5. Congratulations on your well deserved award. I applaud anyone who makes reading a priority with children. I agree we have to move away from test scores and teaching "to the test" for our literacy solutions. Thank you so much for the work you do. I truly appreciate what you do.

  6. Congrats on the award!

    I teach year 3 in the UK (age 7-8) and I try to focus above all on enjoying reading - telling the children about the books I read, going on day trips to the library with them, picking really high quality books that I know they will enjoy. I think the English curriculum here doesn't help - there's so much focus on analysing books and not enough on enjoying them. Some children can tell me the features of the adventure genre but not the name of an adventure book that they couldn't put down. And I find that quite sad.

  7. Congrats on the award!!!

    That's a great topic, literacy, reading or the lack thereof. My college professor believed that people don't read because everything is brought to them on a silver plate. Reading demands concentration and imagination and it's easier to avoid that. But with reading comes literacy, so it shouldn't be avoided.

    I was shocked the other day when I said to a 19-year-old, "Wow, you have a healthy appetite," and she asked me what appetite meant. My jaw dropped. She surprised me so much I could barely respond.

    About schools: too much emphasis is put on grades, in my opinion, and not on knowledge. And knowledge is too factual. Students should develop their minds and be able to think about the world, not just know facts.

    So, I might be totally getting off track here.:) I am looking forward to your academic posts! I like to read academic posts very much.