I'll take a shot at this. I graduated in 1982 and that's ... my goodness ... 24 years ago ...
*Describe the effectiveness of your preparation for teaching literacy.
I was adequately prepared to teach children who were on grade level. I did my student teaching in a largely white, upper middle class suburban school district. My first job was in a low income, rural school district. I was a title I reading teacher of migrant childen. The children were well below grade level.
*How could your preparation for teaching literacy have been improved?
I would have appreciated training in the following areas:
1) Techniques for remediation
2) Working with ESL children
*Recall the problems you had during your first and second years of teaching related to literacy.
During my first year of teaching, the Mexican peso began a rapid devaluation. Illegal aliens poured over the Texas border. On the first day of school, instead of having a class of 30 fifth graders, I had over 45. My entire school was overwhelmed. We had insufficient desks, chairs, tables and tables. We were out of all basic office supplies by December.
Not only were my students academically deficient but they were also migrant laborers. Since their parents were paid by the bushel that was picked, children were frequently pulled from school. The family would leave for 1-2 months to pick crops in California or Arizona or Michigan and would eventually return to south Texas. During this time, the children were not in school - so instruction was complicated by poor attendance.
During this time, "low riders" were extremely popular. Some fifth grade students joined low rider gangs. THey wore gang colors to school. Some of the students were armed with switch blades and brass knuckles.
On the first day of my first year as a new teacher, two of my fifth grade students pulled out knives and attacked each other. I did the most stupid thing imaginable. I jumped between them. I ordered both children to stop. One child backed away but I turned to find the other child swinging a knife at my gut. I seized his arm and pulled him off balance. He fell and cut the side of his head on the chalkboard edger.
The school administrator reprimanded me. He said I should have called the office for help. (There was no time and my classroom did not have an intercom.) I was written up for "excessive use of force."
In retrospect I should have filed police charges against the child who tried to stab me. As it was, nothing happened to either student.
As a reading teacher of migrant children, I soon came to the realization that even though my job title was "5th grade title I migrant reading teacher," I was really nothing more than a glorified baby sitter. I had insufficient textbooks, insufficient furniture, and almost no supplies to speak of. My administrator told me to keep the children "under control" and to not bother him. He said the district didn't have enough resources and that what resources remained were being funneled to other classes.
There was little if any concern over the fact that migrant children who were withdrawn from school were not enrolled elsewhere while they were picking crops. Once a child was withdrawn, the school had no interest in the child.
One of the biggest problems my migrant students had were in the area of phonics. Having been born into Spanish speaking families, they had problems grasping English phonics. A, E, I, O, and U were pronounced, "ah," "ay," "ee", "o" and "oooh."
In Spanish, the pretty girl is "la muchacha linda." The adjective follows the noun - so they had a tendency to say the "girl pretty" instead of the "pretty girl."
* How have you continued to learn about literacy teaching?
I've taken workshops. I've worked with other teachers who were team oriented and have learned a great deal simply from visiting other classrooms.
*How have your literacy beliefs and practices changed over the course of your career? What has influenced those changes?
My understanding of the instruction of literacy has evolved over the years based upon experience and continued training.
I'm old enough to know that districts love to jump on the educational band wagon. When a new instructional metholodgy appears, everyone wants to implement it regardless of whether or not there's any research to document the effectiveness of this program.
Whole language is a good example. When whole language first appeared, we were told willy-nilly to drop the instruction of phonics. Students would learn phonics as they learned to read. We were told to drop the instruction of grammer. Students would learn grammer as they learned to write.
And what has been the result?
We now have an entire generation of young people who can't spell or differentiate the parts of speech.