Saturday, November 01, 2008

Theory to Practice

This semester I am taking a class called The Diagnostic-Prescriptive Model of Teaching Reading. Its premise is that the appropriate assessment of students with reading difficulties (diagnostics) can then allow the teacher to address reading problems more precisely (prescription).

The class is a lot of work. At the beginning of the semester, I was assigned a student. Each week I spend time administering assessments and tutoring her in areas of word recognition, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, etc. I then spend two to three hours in lecture and discussion. During the week, there are chapters to read, lessons to prepare, and theory to practice cards to write.

Theory to practice. This is a difficulty for me. Not the actual theory to practice cards. Those are really still theoretical in nature. Pick a topic (sight words, meaning vocabulary, etc.), write down the research and some practical classroom applications for both large and small groups.

No, it is the actual theory to practice that is distressing me. Each week as I prepare my lesson plan, I worry and fret over the choices I am making. Will this work? Will that work? Am I helping her? Almost every week in my reflection journal (oh yeah, more work), I express my lack of confidence.

Ironically, as I have been reading my chapters today, I was comforted by the text itself. There were two main ideas which helped. One directed at students and one directed at teachers. First, there was the idea that self-concept (the educational term for what most of us would call self-esteem) is not improved through praise but through self-efficacy. As students have success and make progress, their self-concept increases, which in turn increases their motivation, and so on and so on. I think it is good that I am concerned about my ability to tutor a struggling reader. I have no practical experience to this point. I am going to make mistakes. It is supposed to be difficult. Yet, as I get feedback from my instructor, make mistakes, have successes, I will get better at it and feel better about how I am doing.  It's why I am in school... to learn something.

Next, there were these words written to the reader:

Academic courses and texts can merely set one on the path to professional competence. Becoming a "strategic teacher" is a lifelong developmental process. in time, veteran teachers reflect wisdom as well as academic knowledge in their instructional and management decisions. (Manzo, Manzo & Albee)

It is helpful for me to be reminded that what I am trying to do is difficult, is worth doing well, and that it does not happen overnight. And if they are writing this in the textbook, I am obviously not the sole student who needs to know this.  I know more and can do more now than I could at the beginning of the semester. In five years, I will know more and be able to do more as an instructor than I can do now.  

The problem I often have in life is the same as I am having in this class.  Theory to practice.  I can analyze life, the universe and everything, but living it and experiencing it is another matter.  I may not always feel good about myself, but as I take risks and challenge myself, I feel better.  And, hopefully, my learning how to live well will be a lifelong process.  A process in which, with time, I will gain the experience to make wise and knowledgeable decisions.

With time and effort.


Today is November 1st--the first day of National Blog Posting Month (one post per day, each day in November).  I participated a couple of years ago.  It was very challenging and I stressed myself out, but I also tried some creative writing that I never would have tried if it weren't for the pressue of writing something every day.  I skipped last year because of school.  On an impulse... and I mean an impulse I had one hour ago, I decided to participate this year.  Maybe I'm crazy.  Maybe I'm not.  Either way, I have...

1 down, 29 to go



daisies said...

i met you during that nablopomo :) glad you are doing it again this year, me too :) xo

Mary-LUE said...

It was reading your post tonight that spurred me on! Here's to a crazy month of blogging!

Anonymous said...

Thirty days of Mary! Good times!

Even the thought of NaBloPoMo '07 makes me tense -- it really killed my blog mojo. Only now am I getting back in the groove.

Mel said...

Ohhhhhhhh....what FUN! way would I do it.....LOL

Mel said...

Oh....and I whole heartedly agree with the theory. Successes build on successes.

Anonymous said...

What degree are you working toward? Sorry, I've forgotten. My sister is a reading teacher (second career, all that) and I had no idea she went through all this!