AR Woes

Dear Third Grade Teacher,

Hi there.  I’m being vague with your name here because it’s the internet and all, but in reality, I know your name and you know mine.  We’ve talked a few times already this year about Emma, and you know all about the ADD, all about the focus challenges, and all about why this year, her first year out of dual language and at a new school, is a big deal on so many levels.  You would likely know about it all anyway, even if we hadn’t ever talked, because five minutes with Emma is sufficient enough to inform anyone of all the above issues.  (And it’s also enough time for you to discern that she’s just about the sweetest kid ever.  She may not know where any of her stuff is or what exactly she’s supposed to be doing, but she has Jesus in her heart and a can-do attitude.  Even if she can’t!  Which is awesome, quite frankly.) 
You’ve likely wondered why I’m all but ignoring the repeated updates and notices regarding AR testing.  Half of the teachers and school librarians I know hate the whole AR system because it takes all the joy out of reading, and I’m not sure where you are on the subject.  But for me personally, I can see the value in it.  Kids are able to read, and you, as their teacher, can see how well they comprehend what they’re reading.  The format makes it possible for you to do this with a whole classroom of students reading different books, and I’m all about things being more streamlined so you have more time to actually do what you’re there to do — teach!  So, I have no beef with the AR system.  My older daughter thinks the AR system is the greatest thing ever, so much so that she’s just a wee bit obsessed with testing, nearly frothing at the mouth when she gets out of the car in the morning because, “I NEED TO TAKE AN AR TEST ON THIS BOOK AND GET TEN POINTS!”  (So clearly, both of my children have issues.  I’m dealing with both ends of the spectrum over here, so you’ll forgive me for rambling.)
Anywho, I’m getting the updates.  And I’ve been trying my darnedest to get Emma to read AR books and take tests.  I send her with index cards (which you’ve likely seen), reminding her to take the tests over the books that she’s been reading, and I check in with the HomeConnect every day to see how she’s doing.  
Lately, though, there haven’t been any AR points earned.  Why?  Well, last summer, before we left for vacation, I let Emma pick out a book to read while we traveled.  She picked a book that was above her reading level, but because it had a dog on the cover and she was flipping out about that dog, I let her get the book.  It would be a challenge, right?  As an extra incentive, we promised her that once she finished the book, we’d take her to see the movie that was based on the book.  It was coming out later in the summer, and she just knew she would be done with that book by then!
But the book was hard, and it didn’t always keep her attention.  She struggled with words, she had problems focusing, and it got so bad at some points that she told me, “I need my medicine because all the words are running everywhere, Mommy.”  It broke my heart to watch her sister read three books (all above her age level and all twice as long as Emma’s book) in the time it took Emma to get through three chapters in her book.  As the summer progressed, Emma would put it aside, discouraged, then go back to it with renewed optimism.  “I want to go see that movie!,” she’d tell me.  So, I’d encourage her as we’d go through the same cycle, again and again.  In between these spells, she’d read AR books, test on them, and gain confidence that way.  
Well, this past week, she picked the book back up again.  She’s been reading it in her spare time, determined to finish it.  Not because it’s for AR points, because it’s not an AR book.  Not because of that movie, because that movie is out of theaters now.  Not because it’s easy, because it still isn’t.
She’s reading it now because, as she told me a few nights ago, “This book is SO good!”  
So, she’s reading.  She’s reading at night (off her meds!) and learning how to enjoy it.  She’s reading that book, which is all ratty and beaten up, and treasuring it.  She’s reading every last difficult word because she knows that she CAN.
She’s reading.  And I know that this is what you really care about, not about AR points or how quickly she can take tests on what she’s processing.  (Which is good, because she doesn’t test quickly, as you already know.  It takes some time for her to catch all those words running around in her mind and make them line up and make some sense already.  Crazy, kooky words running around up there!)
Just wanted to let you know what success we’re having over here.  Can they make a way to measure this?  Because I’d like for you to get some credit for helping her out with this, too, as I can tell that you’re helping her learn how to focus.  She’s getting it.  Really, really getting it.
That’s worth celebrating, right?
Thanks for everything,
Emma’s Mom

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