I’ve always thought that teaching was an art. It’s not a skill that everyone can possess. There’s a lot of moving parts and pieces that go into strong teaching, it’s almost like a juggling act! One of the most important parts of a strong teacher, specifically a reading teacher, is their mindset. Actions come from thoughts and without the right mindset in place, the wrong actions could be taking place. So what mindsets do reading teachers need to have in order to be successful? Let’s find out!
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Reading Teacher Mindset #1: All students are readers
There’s no such thing as a person who doesn’t like to read. There are only people who haven’t found the right book yet. The right book will change a person from a nonreader to a reader. So why is this mindset #1 for all reading teachers? Because this should be our mission. We don’t just want to help students learn how to read. We want to turn them into avid readers. This is how they become lifelong learners!
As reading teachers, if we do not believe that we can help make all students into readers, then it becomes clear in our actions. We settle for students being unhappy with the books they choose. We are okay with students being unenthused when we read aloud or go to the library. If we begin to let these actions take place, we are saying this is not a mindset we possess. So do you believe? Are all students readers and we will do whatever it takes to help students see this?
#2: Change is welcome
As a coach, this one was one of the hardest mindsets to encourage others to have. And I think if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we have to be prepared and ready for any and all changes thrown our way. A strong reading teacher knows that change is inevitable. That change is welcomed. Why? Because if our world is changing, our students are changing, and new research is continuously being found to help improve instruction, then we cannot stay stagnate.
Strong reading teachers don’t settle for, ‘This has always worked’. They don’t complain when new professional development is being tried and introduced. They are open to new learning, advice, and know to put the best with the best. That means taking what they know works with what’s new and making it perfect for their students.
Reading Teaching Mindset #3: Relationships are the foundation
You have probably heard this a thousand times, but you’re going to hear it again. Students cannot learn from someone they do not know and trust. To them, it’s just words that a stranger is saying. It goes in one ear and out the other. When we take time to build relationships from the start, we are laying a foundation of trust, support, and open communication between the teacher and student.
So why is this a mindset specifically for reading teachers? Reading is a vulnerable action. Even myself today, as an adult, gets nervous when asked to read out loud. Will I know all of the words? Will I understand or comprehend what I’m reading? Will my voice sound weird or crack? There are many insecurities that play into reading and when students don’t have a strong relationship with their reading teacher, these insecurities take over even more. A strong reading teacher who takes time to build relationships will be able to help students through these insecurities more than one without relationships.
#4: Students do not equal levels
Guided reading levels were not designed to be assigned to students. They were designed to showcase the different types of thinking needed as students progress through the grade levels. They are an instructional tool for teachers to use during small groups. They are not a label for students. Students should never know which level they are on. They don’t need to know this information. It creates a comparison and competitive culture in the classroom that only results in defeat for some and success for others.
So if you are an avid guided reading user, that’s great – but know that this is a mindset that not only you, but your entire school needs to adopt. From administration down to teachers, the school culture needs to be about supporting readers’ habits and behaviors through the levels rather than giving levels to students directly. This is one of many mistakes reading teachers make.
Reading Teacher Mindset #5: Purposeful and methodical thinking
This is a mindset I’m proud to say I have, and maybe sometimes a little too much of. Strong reading teachers are like CIA analytics. They are meticulous with data, strategic with planning and execution of lessons, and organized with knowledge and materials. Okay, so maybe you don’t have to actually be organized, but everything else is true! ?
Remember earlier in the post when I said teaching reading is an art? This is where a lot of that comes into play. Strong reading teachers know they cannot just slap some lesson plan in their book and then ‘ta-da’, we have amazing results. With every student in the class having different areas of strength and weakness, with them all having different interests, etc. putting together strong lesson plans takes time, effort, and thought. We know that putting the curriculum lesson in front of students won’t do the trick. We know there’s a finesse to it all. This is why lesson planning takes so much time! It’s a burden that we are proud to bear because we do it for the students. We do it for their outcome.
#6: Reading is thinking
I saved this mindset for last as it’s my favorite. It’s one I think MANY teachers new and veteran need to remind themselves of year after year. I think many of us get into a rut of the black and white part of reading. Things like decoding, fluency, right there comprehension questions, etc. Things that are easily measured. But that’s not reading. Reading is thinking. Reading is taking a text and morphing it into your own knowledge. This includes metacognitive strategies like visualizing, making connections, and synthesizing.
Strong reading teachers know that even the lowest of readers can be the most exceptional thinkers. They know to dig deep where comprehension takes place and skip over the easy questions. They know that conversation between students is just as important as that worksheet they ‘have’ to do. The more emphasis we put on ‘thinking’ when reading, the stronger our students become. This is the most important mindset of all.
So which mindsets do you currently possess? Which do you need to embrace a bit more? I’d love to hear! If you want to save this post for later, make sure to pin the image below!