How long should you try something before it’s enough? Before you can say “Well, I gave this my best go, and it’s not going to work out?”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.
As I’ve written about before, I take aerial arts classes. I am not very good at it. I’ve been at the introductory level for an entire year. Part of this is because I only take class once a week. Like with all things, if I put more time in – I would progress faster. But, I’ve been enjoying it, it gets me out of my comfort zone, and it’s a great work out at least once a week.
So, I was recently surprised by this interaction last weekend: I showed someone my proud climbing video (I made it to the top of the silks!) We discussed how I had been taking classes for a year. Then, they asked, “If it’s taken you a year and you’ve only gotten that far, don’t you think it might be time to stop?”
I was silent. But I haven’t stopped thinking about it.
Just because something takes a long time, doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile pursuit.
So, today, when I saw a comment on Twitter about how a teacher couldn’t justify giving her students independent reading time because the “reluctant readers” find too many ways to avoid reading – it brought me right back to this moment.
Just because it’s taking them a long time, does that mean we should give up? Should we say, “Well, they’ll just never be readers?” and move on with our lives?
I do think we need to expand our view of what qualifies as reading. If we allowed students to choose what they are reading – and include blogs, audiobooks, podcasts, magazines, and online articles in addition to traditional fiction and nonfiction books, that might help a few of them. If they are able to select reading material that is relevant to their lives, that might help too.
And the others – maybe they just need more time. I only work on my upper body strength when I go to the aerial gym, so it’s taking me a long time to develop it.
What if our students are only working on their independent reading skills in our classroom? Shouldn’t we be helping them to have more time to practice, not less?
I know I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and magically be able to do a pull-up. Students who don’t currently identify as readers aren’t going to wake up tomorrow and magically read.
You have to put in the time and be patient. If the goal is worthwhile or if you are enjoying the process, the time is not wasted. If we want our students to become readers, we need to be providing the time and materials necessary for that goal to become a reality.