The movie spawned a desire to find and watch more Marvel movies. In our search, we stumbled onto an action television series featuring a superhero character named The Flash, who has incredible super speed. I appreciate that this show reaches for intensity while leaving a little to the imagination.
In one of the episodes, a villainous character is routinely one step ahead while seemingly vulnerable. As the episode was nearing a close, The Flash became hip to the character's desire to indicate one end game while actually planning for another. After the episode was over, I was left wondering about the phrase, "end game." What's my end game? Not to be morbid, that's not where I'm going with this. I was actually thinking about readers. I know, major topic shift but I tend to take inspiration from strange and unlikely places once again confirming I don't always know the end result of a started endeavor.
So there I was, lying awake thinking about how often as teachers our end game is way different from our students. We think about accomplishments as end products. End game. We see passed reading level assessments as a means to an end. End game. We plan strategies and lessons for individuals so they can keep moving forward. End game? Really? Do we really think kids have, or for that matter, should have an end game in mind when looking at themselves as an eight-year-old reader? I mean really, does the letter P really mean you've reached the end as a third-grade reader and now you're one of the fourth-grade kinds?
I'm not really here to debate the purpose of levels in a library, their existence or non-existence in your vocabulary with your students, or any of that. I have developed my own opinions on this subject, and I don't feel like yelling so I'll just tell you to go do the research if you still think kids need to know their reading level to achieve greatness as a reader. They don't. Period. (Redundancy with the end game of this statement was the best way I could taper my tendency to ramble).
What is the end game people? What's your end game? Let's pretend for just a moment that you're a football coach. (I'm channeling this from unknown places right now and have no business pretending to know how to coach football, but I can reach for a moment for the sake of intensity). When your team scores the winning touchdown in the final championship game, there is a lot of preparation sitting underneath that win. A lot. There were likely missteps along the way, fumbles, interceptions by the other team, buzzer echoes that muffled the sighs of a crowd. There was disappointment along the way at some point whether it was a practice or a game day. But you went back out there, and you and your team did it all again. And here you are, holding a trophy. The quarterback and offensive lineman are dumping the teams cooler over your head, and you're screaming hysterically. In that moment what are you thinking about? You are literally in a synchronized repetitive jump with your teammates circling you. I think you feel like you made it. I think you feel like the work was worth it. I also think it's not your end game. You're going to go back out there because that feeling is so awesome you want it again and again even though you know you can't always have it. It's worth the wait.
Readers keep reading. It's not about an end game strategy. There might be an illusion of some end game accomplishment, but I dare say even in football when you are visualizing your end game win, it isn't the true end game. How can something be the end if it keeps going? Readers shouldn't have an end game either. There are touchdowns, and there are fumbles but if a reader is made they keep picking up books. They go season after season. We better start wrapping our head around the idea that our responsibility as leaders of readers is about getting them back out on that field of possibility.