What Do We Really Want Students to Remember?
I always wonder what students remember about fourth grade. Do they remember special events? Maybe Field Day? Maybe Market Day? Do they remember fields trips we took? Or perhaps something funny that happened?
This week one of my former students came back to see me, and I took the opportunity to ask this question. As a senior in high school, she was running a Creative Writing Club and was in our building to invite elementary students to participate in a three-day camp over our Fall Break. As her presentation ended, I surprised her by asking, “So, what do you remember most about fourth grade?”
Clearly caught off-guard, she had to think for a moment, before answering, “Probably having lots of reading time.”
My face lit up. I beamed with pride. I could even be described as glowing. We build up our independent reading time, reading as much as thirty minutes a day, because the best way to become a better reader is to read. My student choose books they enjoy and grow as readers through the year. I almost jumped out of my seat to give her a big hug.
As proud I was at that moment, I’ve had time to reflect, and these thoughts have been much more depressing. If what this young lady remembers most about fourth grade is the amount of reading time she had, then that means this was unusual in her school career. Her answer indicates no other teacher gave her the reading time she loved…not in middle school…not in high school. An entire host of teacher decided that doing other things were more important than spending time reading books she loved. Time to read simply didn’t exist.
While I loved her answer, I wish extensive reading time wasn’t a unique experience. I wish it was normal and not memorable. I wish she would have answered, “The field trips.”