The first pitch is thrown. Strike one! The audience response is full of echoes of encouragement. It’s okay! Come on! Next pitch, the child swings hard and gets a hit, but it goes foul. Strike two! The crowd starts yelling more loudly now. Good try! You’re a hitter! You’re gonna get this one! The third pitch whizzes into the catcher’s glove. Strike three! The child walks toward the dugout, head down, feeling defeated.
What strategies might the coach of this young boy use next to help his player persevere? Most likely he would start by offering words of encouragement as a source of motivation and inspiration to the child. Additionally, he would provide intervention focused on batting strategies in the practice sessions that follow. Before the next game, the coach would spend much time reinforcing skills that would build this child’s confidence, and as a result of the inspiration and intervention provided, the player would soon show improvement on the field.
My mind immediately begins to wander and quickly transforms from baseball mom to fourth grade classroom teacher. I wonder if that is how the kids in my Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) math group feel? First grade—adding and subtracting. Strike one! Second grade—time and money. Strike two! Third grade—multiplication facts. Strike three… you’re out! Now here they are approaching the plate in fourth grade ready to take another swing at learning.
Thinking of the RTI2 program as our playing field, I reflect on the Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow’s Spring 2016 Report that suggests four key areas to consider in supporting successful RTI2 implementation to ensure that every child is a winner:
- necessary tools that allow for effective scheduling and structure of the RTI2 program
- more support to promote positive school climates that embrace RTI2 as beneficial
- a specific RTI2 contact person within each district to improve communication between parents, schools, and the state
- additional resources, professional development, and increased staffing to assist teachers with their daily RTI2 instruction.
As an RTI2 teacher, I believe that if we fully execute the above four key areas, then students ready to take a swing at fourth grade math will have many amazing opportunities. They can secure a base hit by receiving intervention while their Tier I instruction is protected. They could get all the way to second by having a positive, cohesive school-wide team. They may even hit a triple because all stakeholders involved believe in their ability to grow and learn. All of these children can have a chance at a home run in a school with great resources and well-trained teachers.
Implementing an RTI2 program which includes the recommendations stated in the Hope Street Group Report will give all children the inspiration plus the intervention needed to equal improvement. They will have everything they need to hit a grand slam!
Maureen Henderson teaches fourth grade math, science, and social studies at Greenbrier Elementary School in Robertson County. She has been an educator in Robertson County for seventeen years. Maureen has served as a grade level leader and as a chair for the school’s math committee. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.