Since this is my first blog post, let me start by telling you that the acronym “TWRC” rhymes with “work” and stands for think, wonder, reflect, and connect. I call myself a TWRCr (rhymes with worker) because I not only think, wonder, reflect, and make connections, but I also make a conscious effort to refine my knowledge about teaching reading as I continuously learn more.
I think I have been a TWRCr for much of my life, but four events made me an even better one. The first event happened in my first semester in a master’s program for reading/language arts. As the semester was winding down, the professor asked us to pull out our textbook and turn to the thirty page reference section. She then proceeded to go through the list of resources on these pages telling us to put a star next to what she considered to be “must read” resources. She briefly told us why they were important and how they impacted the field of teaching reading. She also told us stories of her personal encounters with the researchers. I was most impressed and sought out the resources for myself. To this day, I am so thankful she did this because it gave me a great overview of the history of teaching reading and helped me become familiar with the leading reading researchers and influential literature.
Meanwhile, in another class, a professor told us how we needed to read the research critically and consider bias from the researchers as some researchers are so wrapped up in their own beliefs that it is difficult for them to consider an alternative point of view. I am sure she was referencing “The Reading Wars” (i.e. whole language vs. phonics–which I will likely discuss in another post). From this point on, as I read articles or chapters, I began to familiarize myself with the beliefs of the reading researchers. I even created a spreadsheet to help me keep track of their philosophies. This spreadsheet also included photos of them, quotes from their research, and notes I had written down while listening to some of them speak in person. (I still refer to this spreadsheet occasionally–especially when deciding which sessions to attend at the International Reading Association conventions).
Around this same point in time, a fellow classmate, Sara, posted this comment on Blackboard: “That includes what we know in this moment, what we’ve experienced, and what we have not yet been ready to consider.” That was very powerful for me. I know my limited experiences with teaching reading (most of it at that time was with first grade students only), my limited understanding of the reading terminology, and my limited background knowledge of the history of teaching reading at the beginning of the program led to many missed opportunities to learn from the research.
After these three important events in my life, I heard P. David Pearson talk about existing knowledge in our heads. He mentioned that some of it is accurate and some of it is inaccurate. Good readers think about what they already know as they read more. When things don’t match, they refine their knowledge. Sure this is common sense, but unless you consciously think about it, you cannot be a true TWRCr.
I think my main point of this post is that I quickly found researchers whose work I greatly admired; however I remind myself to keep an open mind. I do not want to blindly believe everything my favorite researchers say. In addition, I know some big insights can be missed due to the order in which I have read the literature and the order of my first-hand experiences, so it is good to reread the literature from time to time–each new read usually gives me deeper insight. I also know that misunderstandings can occur because authors might share inaccurate information, authors might be biased, or the information might be outdated. Putting this altogether, I know that if I want to make the most of what I read, I must TWRC and refine. I cannot just believe the words on the page or the existing knowledge in my head. Further, I also try not to dismiss thoughts and ideas I disagree with because I know my disagreement might come from the fact that I am missing a key piece to that understanding.