My course goals, as stated in Module 1, are as follows: In this course, I look forward to gaining both practical knowledge and insight into the practice of teaching reading. I expect to be challenged and to enjoy the process of exploration, and I also expect to be out of my comfort zone and to be humbled by what I don’t know about the teaching of reading. I also look forward to reconnecting with teachers and teaching.

This course has been for me a gateway back into the world of teaching, and in many ways it represents well what I love about teaching: this course has inspired me, challenged me, and provided me with both insight and knowledge. As I stated in our group’s final reflection, teachers are a curious bunch; I, like many others, am filled with a need to know more. During this course I have been reminded again and again that teaching is a constant process of learning, researching, reflecting, revising, revisiting, combining, and even tossing out. In short, I was reintroduced to the overwhelming responsibility and challenge that teaching embodies. The task of reaching each individual student, helping each student achieve his or her potential, is herculean, but teachers must persevere every day. I was inspired by Allen’s stories of her triumphs as well as her mistakes. She reminded me of the wonderful, inspiring, daunting, sometimes frightening process of trial and error and reflection that all teachers must go through. But that process is how we get to the “good stuff”– there is always a better way to teach a concept, to reach a reluctant or tangled reader, to light a fire. And it is up to us to find it.
I had hoped to gain lots of practical knowledge in this course, and I believe that I have. However, I also found that there is so much practical knowledge out there that I am often overwhelmed when faced with the task of narrowing down my choices. During the course of the semester, through readings, research, and module assignments, I was introduced to many valuable "nuts and bolts" types of activities. I will use them and now know how to find them easily. But frankly I am just as swamped in the sea of possibilities as I was before. The difference is that now I have a better compass and rudder to guide my thinking, planning, and teaching - I have gained insight.

I encountered many ideas during this course that resonated strongly with me and that will guide me as I move forward. First is the notion that everyone should be reading. Yes, I know this seems obvious (isn't this the point of literacy education?). I also know that this is a case of "easier said than done." Students should read every day. Teachers should read every day. It would be awesome if parents read every day. Indeed, how can we expect our students to become lifelong readers if we aren't? As literacy teachers, we must always be mindful of the activities we ask our students to DO with their reading. This point was made during a class discussion of post-reading activities and it really stuck with me. What is it that we like to do after we read a good book: complete graphic organizers, write a book report, build a scale model of a a scene from an important chapter? No, we like to share our excitement. Sometimes that's enough. What is the point of the activities that we ask students to complete? Expecting them to complete activities pre-, during, or post-reading simply for the sake of completing a task carries the risk of squashing the joy out of reading. The question gives some much-needed insight and parameters to my soon-to-be-incessant browsing of good teaching ideas. Everything I ask students to do should further what I see as the ultimate goal of reading education - helping someone to become a lifelong reader who is able to read well, who chooses to read often, and who makes meaningful connections to what he or she reads, whether that connection is to a memory, an important or controversial issue, another text, a literary element, or to that special place in the heart reserved for things that really move us.

Secondly, how do we know we are working effectively toward that goal? This brings up assessment. Through this course I was reintroduced to the idea of standards - citing them in lesson plans, tying my curriculum to them, and working to make sure they are all covered during the school year. Today there is an increased focus on standards, achievement, and results. Teachers are under a microscope, the gaze of colleagues, administrators, local and state education officials, and the entire nation trained upon their classrooms and their output. Frankly, it's unnerving, to say the least. There are national, state, and local standards. There are standards issued by professional organizations such as IRA or NCTE. There are standards for determining standards. And there are assessment measures of infinite variety to ensure that these standards are being met. Based on my ultimate goal as a literacy educator, as far as I am concerned the most important assessment is that which takes place every day. I am talking about observation, conversation, and collaboration. I am referring to the kinds of assessments that will help me to evaluate and revise my curriculum to meet students' individual needs. I will always be mindful of the types of assessments I use to help me and to help my students reach their goals - and I will strive to make sure these assessments are ongoing, daily, and authentic.

Thirdly, I am learning to be a little bit braver, a little more open to putting myself "out there." Realizing how much I don't know was a daunting prospect at the beginning of the term, but I believe it now will serve as a jumping off point for me. Yes, to truly teach effectively requires time - are there enough hours in the day to do all that we need to do and do it well? Resoundingly, NO! But that shouldn't stop anyone from trying. In this course I was reintroduced to the company of other teachers. I balked (on the inside) at the notion of completing every assignment as a group - I have always been much more comfortable working alone. However, I experienced powerful learning through the structure of this course and its andragogical focus. It has been wonderful and inspiring to hear my fellow students' and teachers' ideas, to see their creativity, to feel their enthusiasm. It reminded me of the importance of seeking a mentor and collaborating with others who are committed, excited, and willing to share.

I didn't have specific goals at the beginning of this course. For me it was very much about getting back into "that teaching frame of mind." It has been a while since I have been inside the classroom, so I wasn't even sure how to begin to set specific goals. Now I can happily report that I have encountered and tagged many topics for further inquiry: the use of graphic novels, assessment, and student choice, to name a few. And that's just the beginning. Moving forward I will let my research and exploration be my guides to future goal-setting. This course has prepared me well to continue both internal and external discourse about how to be an effective literacy teacher. I look forward to the journey.