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A Mantra of Moderation

By Julie Scullen
 | Jun 07, 2017
A Mantra of ModerationEat more veggies, but not potatoes. Eat more salads, but only dark green leaves, no iceberg lettuce, and skip the dressing. Eat more fruit, but not bananas. And never strawberries—strawberries have pesticides. Avoid gluten, but make sure you eat your whole grains. Drink milk, it’s good for you. Don’t drink milk, it’s bad for you. Weigh yourself every day, it’s motivating. Don’t weigh yourself every day, it’s defeating.

Conflicting information about diet and nutrition will make you crazy enough to crawl under the covers with a big bag of Doritos. 

The only area of my life where I find more consistently conflicting information? TEACHING. Every time I read a journal, buy a new resource, collaborate with a colleague, or visit my curriculum materials, I’m given conflicting information. No matter what I do, I’m doing it wrong.

Make sure your students are reading classic books and literature, but don’t make them read old dead white men. By the way, every student should be exposed to Shakespeare, Orwell, Hawthorne, and Hemingway. 

Students should read material that they consider a struggle. It’s good for them. Students should read material that is at their independent level. Reading shouldn’t be a struggle.

Activate students’ background knowledge as much as you can before assigning a text. But don’t give them too much information up front, or they won’t see reading as a means of gaining information. If you tell them everything, they don’t have to read.

Make sure your students are reading widely and often, from a variety of genres. Track this to make sure. But not with checklists, book lists, or counting minutes. And never assign particular genres—allow choice. 

Collect data from assessments every week so that you can see progress and plan instruction. Use formative assessment often. But don’t continually stress your students out with assessment and data collection. By the way, assessments take away crucial instructional time, so limit assessment.

Follow the standards to the letter, but meet kids where they are. 

Differentiate, but ensure that every student completes the same common assignments. 

Read aloud to your students every day. Don’t read aloud to your students. It’s a waste of time because listening isn’t tested.

Make time every day in class to allow for independent reading. Class time is for direct instruction, and if students want to read what they choose, they should do it at home. 

My mantra has become one of common sense. All things in moderation. I read the journals, buy the new resources, collaborate and follow curriculum, but I keep the faces of students in my mind at all times. They need me to sort through all the advice and do what is best right now. Their needs change every day. 

Some days they need dressing on their green salad.

And if you need me, I’m under the covers with an empty bag of Doritos.

Julie ScullenJulie Scullen is a former member of the ILA Board of Directors and also served as president of the Minnesota Reading Association and Minnesota Secondary Reading Interest Council. She taught most of her career in secondary reading intervention classrooms and now serves as Teaching and Learning Specialist for Secondary Reading in Anoka-Hennepin schools in Minnesota, working with teachers of all content areas to foster literacy achievement. She teaches graduate courses at Hamline University in St. Paul in literacy leadership and coaching, disciplinary literacy, critical literacy, and reading assessment and evaluation.


Leave a comment
  1. Beth Wing | Jul 06, 2017
    Your words made me smile. So true! Keep the faith...
  2. Kristina Weber | Jun 15, 2017
    Right on, sister!

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