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I’ve always known reading and relationships go hand in hand. My recent experience at my new job has reinforced this in such a concrete way! I just started a new position as a Reading Specialist. This position is an interesting one, as it can look slightly different at each school depending on the needs of the students, the educator and administrator goals, and the background of the Reading Specialist. Yes, we are all predominantly supporting students and staff in Kindergarten and Grade 1, but what those needs are and how we offer this support, might vary.

When I was preparing for an interview for this position, I spent some time really digging into the Board’s Strategic Directions and Annual Plan. One thing that stuck with me was the focus on “closing the gap for those currently and historically underserved.” As you can see in the plan, this can include many different groups of people. I have been thinking a lot about these students as I’ve spent time in a variety of Kindergarten and Grade 1 classrooms.

Connecting With Teachers

Just like at other schools, in many of the classes, there are children with a variety of learning needs. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with educators about these students.

  • What strategies work for them?
  • What needs do they have?
  • What supports are already in place?
  • What else might you like to see?
  • How might I support these students to help them meet their reading goals?
  • How might we work together — possibly with other educators in the schools — to help support these students’ reading goals?

For a few of these children, this meant me spending more of my classroom time connecting with these kids, bridging reading and relationships. Recently, I shared this tweet.

A Focus on Relationships

As both Stuart Shanker and Susan Hopkins have discussed many times, relationships are the backbone of Self-Reg. All students need these positive connections with educators. As a teacher who only spends short amounts of time in each room, I’ve realized that I need to work even harder to develop these relationships with both educators and with kids. But when these special moments occur, I know that the time invested was worth it.

In the case of the child that I tweeted about, the classroom teacher and I decided that I should focus on this child when I’m in the room. This will not be forever, but it is for now. Thinking about the Annual Plan, this is a student who fits the target audience, and by working with the classroom teacher and the EA (Educational Assistant), we can develop a plan that will increase his decoding and comprehension skills. For me, this has meant much trial and error.

  • Visuals needed to be replaced with concrete items.
  • New vocabulary needed to be introduced, re-introduced, and continually reinforced.
  • Self-Reg has married well with reading here, as we also continually have to be stress detectives:
    • recognizing everything from cognitive stressors, when the work is too challenging,
    • biological stressors, when additional noise, bright lights, and more people around, make it harder for him to succeed.
  • The whole teaching team (the teacher, the EA, and myself) had to reflect together after each lesson to determine what worked, what didn’t, and where to go next.

My Key Takeaways

I may no longer have a classroom of my own, but the last couple of weeks have shown me that Self-Reg is as important as it was when I did. Without the relationships with students and staff, the recognition of stress, and the ability to help co-regulate students when needed, I would not be able to get to the reading support and instruction. And it’s so important to get there, as every child deserves this success. Sometimes it will take a little extra time, a few additional resources, and some successful and not-so-successful attempts, but we will get there. How do you build relationships with ALL kids? What impact might prioritizing these relationships have on student achievement? I appreciate how our Board is working to ensure that every child has a champion.