Immediate Needs or Building Literacy?

In recent days, I am finding it hard to balance my classroom. Namely, conducting balanced literacy instruction with all that we have going on. My classroom contains students in grades kindergarten through third, with a range of physical, academic, and emotional needs. I have little control over when my students come into the classroom. Our day is determined by each grade level’s schedule and, more importantly, the legal minutes of pull-out instruction as dictated by each child’s IEP. And you know, things never line up nice and neat. It has been very hard to juggle three different grade level groups learning in our room simultaneously.

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Things get loud, and distracted kids get very lost in the chaos. It is hard to make time for all of the components required to teach a balanced literacy lesson. It is even more complicated to make sure that each child receives equality in instruction with all of the distractions.  Sometimes we can make it work. Then the kids act out. The outbursts can be from frustration. Other times, they are reacting to the fact that they are not socially ready to access a classroom environment, let alone the complicated turns of literacy curriculum. We do our best to take it in stride. I was hired to accommodate and advocate for these kids.

In response, we are pushing the growth mindset this year more than ever. I tell them, “I am here to help you. You might not get it NOW, but if you work hard, you will get it soon.” The discouraged students seem to take this mindset well. They enjoy when we congratulate mistakes because they are “proof that we are trying” and another stepping stone on our path of learning. However, this is only working for the students who are discouraged.
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There is a whole other group of students that are more difficult to address. They are not ready to learn. There are weeks like this past one; where I was essentially on call for behavior interventions, many of which were outside of my classroom. I would have to leave, spur of the moment, to manage a child. Or I was missing from my classroom instruction for hours at a time, handling major instances of violence.

Some of these students are not ready to access the curriculum. There are few strategies that will help us get through the day when a child is dealing with severe sensory needs, constant over-stimulation, or un-diagnosed emotional/behavioral disorders, or mental health concerns. I cannot successfully complete a lesson when one child is screaming, and I am being physically assaulted.

I feel as though myself, and the system are doing these kids a disservice. The chaos of my room aside, how are we supposed to instruct these types of students? I struggle to understand how we are meant to build literacy for some of these students. How am I to instruct them when a child is screaming, and another is kicking or punching students and adults? How am I supposed to follow common core and instruct children who are not emotionally, socially, or behaviorally ready to receive instruction?

I want to make it work, and I know that it won’t be an easy fix. I’m hoping that soon, we can guide these kids towards the necessary life- and coping-skills to help them become functioning students in the classroom. For now, we are pretty far from our destination; and I am one worn out, perplexed, and bruised educator.

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One thought on “Immediate Needs or Building Literacy?

  1. leighahall September 23, 2016 / 2:13 pm

    A few questions that I hope will help here: (a) how do you define balanced literacy instruction? what is to “supposed to” look like? and (b) do you think this definition and expectation is appropriate/realistic in your context?

    Like

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