I just took Orton Gillinghan training, now what?
Taking an Orton Gillingham course is just the start of your training.
So, if you watched a youtube video of a person hanging wallpaper does that qualify you to hang wallpaper in other peoples’ homes? Would your walls be as dramatic looking as theirs? So much goes into hanging wallpaper other than the actual hanging. Walls need to be prepped, trim needs to be painted, decisions on the proper paste, and gathering the required tools are just a few examples. I think being an OG practitioner is similar. I am such a huge believer in supervised practicum, ongoing mentoring, observing others, and professional development. Orton Gillingham has recently entered the mainstream. People are reinventing the wheel. What would Anna say?
I have sat in many classes listening to someone tell me how to do something. I take notes, snap a few pictures, and excitedly inhale the information only to get home and suddenly realize I forgot half of what the instructor said! The best example of this for me is an OG course. We are given books, binders, and instructions, and then are sent out to teach the world! Fortunately for me, all of my training required supervised practicum. I had real students and had to write lesson plans that were critiqued by my instructor. Following my training, I was observed and observed others. My lesson plans continued to be reviewed, and my supervisor followed my student's progress. All of this post-training was mandatory working at Orton Gillingham Reading Specialists, owned by Karen Sonday, a Fellow of the Academy. We had frequent staff meetings discussing the obstacles we encountered working with our students. After over 10,000 hours of teaching students with the Orton Gillingham discipline, I began writing materials, lecturing, and coaching. It was indeed a rewarding experience.
I recently went into private practice. Never before have I felt as isolated as I did then. I missed the comradery of others who were as passionate as I am in this field. I would leave clients’ homes and think, Wow, how do people do this? How do they monitor themselves? I also was mortified to think people fresh out of training are doing this! How is that even possible? Through a friend, I discovered a group dedicated to people who are somehow connected to structured literacy. Daily questions stream in for advice, or posts are made with the latest cool thing they have discovered for their practice. I was thrilled so many ask questions. I constantly have questions. I thrive on book discussions and the latest studies!
I have attended countless conferences, too. After talking to folks, my fear was realized: there are hundreds of people with little or no practicum teaching OG lessons. This is not a bad thing, or is it? Some say a little phonics instruction given in a mediocre lesson is better than no instruction. Others say people should not charge for sessions until there are at least 100 hours of instruction, including supervised, under their belt. What do you say to this? I often wonder how they decide whether to add new material or stay put awhile. Are they remembering to do error correction through eliciting questions? How do they answer the tough questions our bright students ask us? It took years for me to get to where I am and private practice scares me! Without mentors and colleagues I would not have the knowledge base I do now.
Years ago Orton Gillingham was very bare-bones; seldom did you see premade worksheets we have access to now. Lessons were all written for the students, being individualized, structured, and sequential. Using a boxed program and prewritten lessons were not considered a truly OG lesson. Times have changed a lot. I often wonder what Anna would say. People continue to evolve OG into what works for them, or what they think students will like. I see so many gimmicky things on the internet. The reality of it is we only need a few things to teach someone to read. We don’t need buzzers, art projects, and shiny objects to teach the OG lesson. I think these shiny objects are there more to keep our interest than the student’s. For years, with great success, I, and countless others, have used a sound card pack, affix cards, root cards, a student notebook, wordbooks, a few structured card games along with a handwritten lesson plan. Now we see premade lesson printouts and iPad games replacing traditional paper and pencil lessons.
Using my analogy of watching a video may be a bit harsh. My intent is not to offend but rather to encourage people to observe OG in action and be observed by mentors. Teaching reading is rocket science, and it is hard. To be good at this it takes years, extensive training and mentoring. Search the internet for a highly trained mentor in your area who has years of experience, reach out to them and see if they would allow you to observe. Ask them to observe you, too. Each time I watch another tutor, I take something away. I would be happy to talk with anyone who has questions or would like my opinion. Feel free to contact me; I may not be in your area, however, we can certainly video chat!