Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Outside Voices from the Inside: Katherine Sokolowski

I have known Katherine Sokolowski via Twitter for a few years now but I finally met her in person at NCTE last year in Las Vegas. If I ever have the opportunity to travel around and visit classrooms of my Twitter PLN, Katherine's classroom in Monticello, Illinois would be one of the first I'd visit.

Read Katherine's inspiring blog: Read, Write, Reflect
Follow Katherine on Twitter: @Katsok

What grade(s), subject(s) do you teach?

I teach fifth grade, three classes of reading, one class of writing.

How long have you been teaching? 
This is my fifteenth year teaching.
What initially drew you to a career in education?

My mom taught third grade for years. I would help out in her classroom. Also, my first grade teacher had me read to her classroom. I was hooked.

What motivates you as a teacher?

I want kids to see their potential and work hard to help them realize it.

I also love to teach the kids who can’t sit still, who have had a rough time up to fifth grade. Those kids who don’t like school. Getting them to change that viewpoint and see how successful they can be is very rewarding.

And, of course, I love helping students find a love of reading.

What has been your best classroom memory thus far?

Wow, that’s a hard question. There have been amazing memories every year, every week, every day. I’ll go with a current one so I don’t have to think so hard.

A boy in my class came in this year very angry. He hated school and reading. He did love graphic novels, but didn’t think I would count them as real books. (Of course, I did.)

Last week we added up how much he had read this year. He’s read over 200 books, has grown almost two years in relation to reading. He jumped up six levels in Fountas and Pinnell and increased over one hundred words per minute in regard to reading fluency. When he and I conferenced at the end of the year, he hugged me and said he’d miss my classroom. That was a good day.

What do you want the future of education to look like?

Student centered with student voices being heard.
Choice in regards to reading and writing.
Authentic work being done in the classrooms.
Teachers being viewed as the experts in their classrooms.
Time given for reflection instead of just cramming more on our plate.
Teachers viewed as the experts they are and the profession treated with respect.

What makes you stay in the classroom?

The students. I love interacting with them, seeing them grow, visiting with former students year after year and hearing what they took away from our time together.

 What do the words “use your outside voice” mean to you?

That we need to speak up and tell the world what we know to be true:
 We are the ones inside the four walls of our classrooms. We know what children are capable of at the age we teach. We know what is important that children learn. We should not sit back and let others dictate how and what education looks like. We are the experts, the artists. It is time to take our profession back.

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