Why Our Schools Are Failing- Part 6
Helping Our Schools by Increasing Literacy – Part 6
Let’s Start a Word-of-Mouth Literacy Epidemic – A Hypothetical Example.
Mary is a connector. She has many friends and acquaintances, is a member of several community groups, is called upon often to head up or serves on committees, including the Parent/Teachers Association of Damian’s school. She has an active social life and is successfully self-employed.
Mary has a son Damian, who at age 6, is already struggling at school. There have been several meetings with his First Grade teacher and principal and some mention of Damian possibly being “dyslexic”.
Being concerned and not knowing much about dyslexia Mary mentions it at her book club. She has known these other women, most of whom are also mothers, for long enough to raise the matter. Eleanor, a former special education teacher suggests that Mary should be very careful. “Lots of kids get labelled as dyslexic. They are then given an individual education plan and are considered to be special needs students. Many of them simply need to be taught better. I’ve seen too many kids put into special ed, where nothing was done for them. That’s why I finally left teaching and opened my store.”
“Why don’t you teach him yourself,” asks Amanda. “My sister is homeschooling both of her kids and they are doing really well.”
“I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea where to start. I’m not a teacher. I sell real estate.”
“I’m sure my sister would be happy to help. She has a son, Brandon, who is almost Damian’s age. She started homeschooling because she got fed up with special ed program at the school. It wasn’t working. At least she couldn’t see any differences after an entire year.”
In the weeks that followed, Mary met with Angie, Amanda’s sister and had several long talks about homeschooling.
“Look” explains Angie, “You don’t have to go whole hog and pull him out of school. Why don’t you just start by teaching him to read?”
“How do I do that? I have never been trained as a teacher.” Mary argued.
You don’t have to be trained as a teacher. I wasn’t. I’m trained as a nurse, but I learned how to teach Brandon. The training is all provided on the website and the material is broken into very specific things to do in every lesson. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Let me show you the materials.
Mary wound up borrowing Angie’s materials and during the summer she taught Damian to read. By the beginning of school, Damian was as good a reader as any kid in his second grade class.
Although Mary was delighted with Damian’s success and by her having taught him to read, she was also disturbed. For the rest of the summer holidays, she attempted to ignore it, but finally during the second week of school, she made an appointment with Mrs. Ingram, Damian’s first grade teacher.
“Mrs. Ingram, do you have any students in your class this year who look like Damian did last year in terms of his reading problems?”
“Of course, I do. Every year I get a mix of students; some very clever ones, a lot of average kids and a few that are having difficulty learning. Every teacher gets that unless you are in some special program for gifted or special ed.”
“How many of those children would you have this year? Do you know?”
“Well, it’s pretty early yet, but I have been teaching for a long time so I can sometimes see the problem sooner than some teachers might. I would guess that I have 5 or 6 students who are struggling with reading this year.”
Mary produces the reading materials that Angie loaned her. “Have you ever seen this reading program before?”
Mrs Ingram looks the materials over and then responds “No, and if I did see it before, I don’t remember it. There is so much stuff out there anymore and it all claims to work. It’s impossible to decide what is good and what is junk, Why do you ask?”
It’s the program I used to teach Damian to read over the summer. He is now a much better reader and I just wondered if you knew about the program and if it might help you and the kids in your class who are struggling.”
“Well even if it would, I would never be able to get it. The district just bought a whole new reading program that I have to use. They are not about to give me any money to spend on another one. The special education teacher might know about this program. Let me see if she’s here.”
The special education teacher, Mrs. McVey, was also unaware of the program, but was interested. “I’ll use anything I can get my hands on that works, but I only see these kids for an hour twice each week and I’m swamped with kids who are behind in reading and math. Just trying to keep on top of their individual education plans is a full-time job. The administration has so much reporting that they have to provide to the state and federal government for funding that it cuts into my teaching time”.
“Would your principal let me come and work with you as a volunteer?” Mary asks.
“Let you!!! He’d jump up and down to get some help for me. What do you want to do?”
“I’d like to take one of the first grade kids from Mrs.Ingram’s room who is having trouble with reading and help him or her learn to read.”
“Well, we would have to get parental approval and you would need a police check and we would have to find a corner where you could work, but I don’t think any of those would be a problem.”
During the next few weeks, Mary attended the school twice a week during reading period, took Alex to a cubicle in the library and taught him to read, She also met with Alex’s mother and taught her how to practice with Alex so that she did not confuse him by teaching him differently. By Christmas, Alex was able to fit back into his regular classroom reading program.
When the special education teacher heard Alex read and saw that Damian was doing well in his reading class, she decided to use the program with a few of her struggling readers.
“I can’t put any more kids in the program because there is no budget for the materials until at least next year. I am already wearing out your set when you are not here.”
At this point, Mary started making a plan.
( to be continued)