To “domesticate” is to settle in, to acclimate, to be accustomed to. What does that have to do with our teaching of reading?
Well, I have worked long-term with lots of clients who have done a great job of making adjustments, big and small, to their literacy practices over multiple years in order to improve their results. Once the funding diminishes, consultants providing outside support and monitoring are gone and the school/district is left to its own devices, there is STILL much work to be done – that work is called “domestication avoidance”. In other words – how do we NOT become so comfortable in our practice and NOT so accustomed to our way of working that it slips back into “old” habit or “out of date” practice?
I recently spoke with a group of leaders who said that they noticed that they had loosened up on things that they thought were deeply entrenched in practice at their sites. They mentioned things like interruptions during the reading block, teachers lolly-gagging out in the hallway after recess, students not being sent to interventions 100% of the time, etc. The leaders said, “Wow! We loosened up and so did the practice!”
Boy, that is true.
So, how to avoid it? I often talk about how critical “fidelity checks” are in even the most seasoned implementation. We need to schedule random and secret (for lack of a better term) checks on starting times, ending times, pacing calendars, how many calls are forwarded to the classrooms during instruction time, how many “all call” announcements there are during the instructional block, the attendance records of students who are in need of daily intervention. The goal is not to “catch” people doing the wrong thing, but to reinforce the right thing – those practices that served us well and will continue to serve us well.
I often say to our clients, we can get as fancy as we want to get, but if the foundational elements are weakened, then the fanciness will undo all of our hard work.