The Power of a Teacher

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Reading Intervention Requires More Than Reading Articles

Early in my teaching career, I had the opportunity to work in a large Texas district with a high at-risk student population. Driving to campus on the first day of school, I noticed a student running and jumping along the highway, using a shopping cart to carry him down the rickety sidewalk. I recognized him right away as we he walked towards me down the hall, entering my first period English language arts class for the day. Tyler was tall and skinny, wearing clothes that were short and tight. He had a big smile on his face, his hair was long and dirty, and the odor of sweat covered him.

Setting the Stage for Success

Tyler was one of those kids with so many reasons to fail in life that I was overwhelmed with a desire to do whatever I could to help him succeed. He was one of 10 children who lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood that was over-run with gangs and poverty. He raised his brothers and sisters while his mom worked. His dad was in prison. He had been in and out of juvenile detention for stealing food. He was banned from every grocery store within two miles of his home. He was 15 years old and in the 8th grade.

The director of special education came to visit my classroom to let me know Tyler qualified for reading intervention and emotional disability services. In previous years, he had been allowed to take the modified standardized test but this year he was mandated to take the regular standardized test. Tyler hadn’t passed any of the modified tests, so the director told me he was certain to fail the regular test this year. She apologetically asked me to keep him calm, and in the classroom. The bell rang; first-period started.

As I explained how we would be reading articles in Achieve3000 Literacy that year, and what our goals would be, Tyler raised his hand. He let me, and the entire class, know that he would not be completing any work and didn’t care about reading. Tyler’s reading level assessment showed him to be at a 1st grade reading level. When I asked him what his goals were for his future, he said, ‘to drop out of high school’. As I listened to him, I realized this was a young man who needed someone to believe in him.

Reading the Signals

Even in my school where many students were considered to be at-risk, Tyler stood out: he refused to sit, he threw things, he banged his head on the table, he paced around the room, slept, asked me for food, he cried, and he punched people and walls. He was the impossible student who wasn’t ever going make it—or was he?

As part of my reading intervention strategy, I decided to offer Tyler crackers in exchange for reading articles in Achieve3000 Literacy. Instead of reading the assigned article, he read articles about SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer. I was happy he was reading non-fiction text. I encouraged him frequently, ‘Keep going, you’re doing great.’ He would look at me like I was stupid, but he kept on reading.

About 2 months into the school year Tyler shouted out, “Has anyone read ‘Even Jefferson Made Mistakes?’ Jefferson called us subjects, then had to erase it and put citizens. I’m not a subject, I’m a citizen.” The students agreed with him. Another student started talking about an ocean article, someone else mentioned they were reading articles about robots, and everyone began sharing their opinions about the articles, and exchanging titles. Tyler was now reading History articles; I knew he would get there. I felt tears in my eyes and blinked to make them go away. I looked at this class full of sagging pants, tattoos, and anger, and saw sparks of self-belief. The hopelessness was gone. My students were having a literary discussion. This was the beginning of success!

From Hopelessness to Unlimited Potential

A few more months went by, then came the test. Tyler was afraid. He began to ‘speak’ to me again; the fighting, the cursing, punching the wall, missing school. I did my best to let him know I heard him. I believed in him. I insisted he would pass the test.

One month after students completed their standardized test the director of special education came back into my classroom. She was crying as she asked, “What have you done to Tyler? He passed the test!”. I started crying, and then Tyler, who was in my class, jumped up and with tears rolling down his face said, ‘I passed the test?!?’ He ran over to us and we cried together while he kept saying ‘I did it Miss, I did it.’

The Power of a Teacher

Now, every time I meet a student who worries me, who seems too far gone to help, I remember Tyler. If he could do it, I feel certain that it’s not too late for any child to grow; every student has potential.

Why did Tyler pass? He was fortunate enough to have access to the highly differentiated content in Achieve3000 Literacy and a teacher who believed in his ability to progress, push and encourage him when he needed it, and set high expectations for him.

Now, as a Professional Learning Services Director for Achieve3000, I am so grateful to share my experiences as a teacher to provide some support, encouragement, and inspiration to the teachers I work within the classroom every day. It’s not an easy job, especially when we have to witness our students suffering, but if we can hang on and keep believing in them, I am certain they can recover their ability to learn, grow, and see a future that is much different than the one they would be likely to know without my support.

Do you change lives?

Are you listening to your students?

Are you willing to use Achieve as a tool to fix what is broken?

Your students need you. Achieve needs you. Achieve provides the tools; but YOU are the builder.

What will you build? Construct something amazing, your students deserve it.

Learn more about how teachers from Aldine, Texas using Achieve3000 Literacy as part of their reading intervention strategy nearly tripled the number of students who passed their end-of-year reading assessment.