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The "Box of Stuff" Question

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society.” – Martin Luther King Jr.


Of all of Martin Luther King Jr.’s incredible writing, this quote from his 1948 Morehouse College essay, “The Purpose of Education,” seems the right place to start today. As a former high school American Literature teacher, I always saw the start of Black History Month as an opportunity. I wanted to start with something powerful, something epic, something relatable. At least a few times, I’ve used this essay on the moral responsibility of educators to provide an education that ensures students learn content, context, and character.


Since coming on board with Slingerland, I’ve reread this essay several times. I like to imagine that Martin Luther King Jr. and Beth H. Slingerland would have seen eye-to-eye on a great many things, education being one of them. Sadly, not everyone agrees with them about what drives education.


Not too long ago, a curious administrator asked me how many “boxes of stuff” Slingerland has made and if there was a “great box of stuff” that would be right for his school.


He wanted scopes and sequences to hand his overworked teachers. He wanted passages, worksheets, and supplemental materials that could be copied in those stressful minutes right before class begins. He wanted to give his teachers a way to measure learning in terms of lessons delivered and pages turned. He wanted to give his teachers one box of stuff that would fit the needs of every student. He wanted the greatest box of stuff ever created.


I had to inform him that Slingerland has never made “boxes of stuff.” Instead, we train educators so they can be great.

As I am regularly reminded by our Faculty Senate, “The Slingerland® Approach is an approach, not a product.” It’s not a box of stuff. It’s a collection of pedagogical tools and techniques, backed by science of reading research, tested in classrooms around the world, and flexible enough to meet the high bar of truly great teaching. The Slingerland® Approach turbocharges educators, and through them, transforms the experience of today’s learners.

There’s no box big enough to put that in.

Beyond a Box of Stuff

We have classes in progress and instructors doing amazing work. I will go more into that next time as those instructors and classes deserve special attention.

Right now, I want to send an update on the work our Slingerland community is doing, which is simply too big to box. These amazing people are helping prepare educators to face the challenges of today through content, context, and character.


Board of Directors:

Our Board of Directors volunteer to meet each month, review finances, and ensure that the Slingerland® Literacy Institute stays focused on its mission: excellence in literacy education for all.


One of the seeds they planted at this time last year has just come to fruition. Thanks to their financial savvy and vision, investments in 2023 means we have funds to offer multiple equity-based scholarships for the 2024 summer comprehensive classes. Equity-based scholarships allow the scholarship committee to consider not only financial need, but also location, students served, class availability, available mentorship, and more.


The goal is that more people have access to Slingerland classes, so those people can have the maximum impact in their classes and communities.


Faculty Senate:

Our Faculty Senate is made up of Certified Slingerland Teachers and Certified Slingerland Instructors of Teachers. They are content experts, and their role is to oversee and ensure fidelity to the Slingerland® Approach.


Certification Committee:

Last year, the Certification Committee revised and streamlined the certification process while maintaining a high bar. These changes have allowed easier certification submissions and a quicker certification process. These certification reviews involve reviewing portfolio submissions, watching videos of teaching, and engaging in panel interviews to ensure that anyone who is certified through Slingerland has a certification that means something.


Course Management Committee:

Course Management oversees the Slingerland curriculum itself. They are currently working on projects to update class materials to reflect the most current research, ensuring alignment among instructors, and updating the design of our instructional materials.


Published Materials Committee:

The published materials committee is preparing three new texts for publication including updating two texts central to the comprehensive classes and bringing back a book of phonetic word lists that has been in demand. In the coming months, we will unveil the fruits of their tremendous labor.


Professional Development Committee:

This team recognized multiple areas of need for professional development and created teams to tackle those needs. They are delving into light mentoring for those who finish a comprehensive class, updating one-on-one coaching for those who have taken a Slingerland class and want additional assistance, compiling resources and opportunities for CEUs for those who want to renew their certification, and planning the annual Spring Meeting.


Front Office:

The role of the Front Office is to support the Board of Directors, Faculty Senate, and every past and present class participant. I want to assure everyone that in times when the Front Office gets a little quieter than usual, it’s typically because we are busy making sure that what we are doing is done well.

In my next piece, I will update on our classes for Spring, and Summer and celebrate the work of the instructors and our Slingerland class participants. I hope you'll join me then.

Seth Watkins

Executive Director

Slingerland® Literacy Institute


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