“I used to think I taught a class of students. Now I know I am teaching twenty-six individual children to read. This lesson was a long time coming, but one well worth learning.” Sharon Taberski in On Solid Ground: Strategies for Teaching Reading K-3, 2000, pg. 7
This quote highlights just how important it is for any educator in the early childhood education field to understand that each student is an individual who has a unique style of learning, communicating, and ability to contribute something totally new and different to the learning community. Teaching a child how to read is an enormous task; however, the possibilities are endless once students learn to genuinely love reading. Because the teaching of reading is such a complex task, it is impossible to reach the needs of all your students if you choose to implement just one form of reading instruction. I love that Sharon admits that the lesson “was a long time coming, but one well worth learning” (pg. 7) because this communicates that she has committed herself to understanding that her students are individual learners. Any great, life-changing lesson takes time and experience to learn and Sharon chose to use previous experiences to improve her teaching and views on education; I strive to capture that same determination and open-mindedness in my own learning and teaching.
Especially in an age where Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences has been so welcomingly embraced, and supported by volumes of research, it is more important than ever to tailor our instruction to meet the needs of all our students. (For a brief overview of Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, visit http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/education/ed_mi_overview.html)
Taberski emphasized the importance of giving children the strategies needed to solve problems involving reading by themselves. In Taberski’s classroom, students are encouraged to become independent, self-sufficient readers who have the ability to teach their peers the reading strategies they use. Just think how empowering it must be for the children to know that their teacher trusts them with such an important responsibility. Sharon Taberski’s colleague, Lorraine Shapiro, a first grade teacher at Manhattan New School, also supported giving students this same responsibility when she explained that she had been working diligently to help her students understand the importance of giving their peers the opportunity to solve their own problems instead of just giving them the answer (pg. 11). Lorraine approached this issue creatively by explaining to her students that it is more valuable to learn how to fish, or to learn how to read, instead of just been given the fish, or given the word without figuring it out. When children are encouraged to become self-sufficient learners, they except nothing less and take control of their own learning. When students take control of their own learning, they feel a greater sense of ownership over their own learning. As teachers, we strive to encourage children to take control over their own learning and invest themselves in the act of improving themselves; modeling the strategies children can use when confronted with an issue is just one way to encourage this important concept of ownership. Often, teachers forget just how capable young children can be at solving their own problems – they just need the right tools, or strategies, and time to learn how to use those tools effectively.