Reading time was nearing an end. My students were enthralled in a young adult fiction novel entitled, Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements. Though my students were fifth graders, I knew that, by reading above grade level books to my below grade level readers, I would expand their vocabulary, listening, and comprehension skills. This particular story I used to identify point of view, genre, character emotion, running themes, vocabulary skills, foreshadowing, cause/effect, and much, much more. Novels have always been my primary teaching tool, because novels teach everything a student needs to know about the art of writing.
The Assistant Principal poked her head in as I was in the middle of questioning character emotion. “How do you think Bobby feels, knowing that no one believes he’s invisible?” I asked, watching a dozen hands pop into the air. From my left, I saw the Assistant Principal hail me, a young boy standing by her side. “Okay, people,” I announced. “Let’s take our theories to our own novels. Pull out your book, find a cozy place, and analyze your character’s feelings. When the buzzer goes off, we’re headed to our desks to draw a picture of our character, and describe how they were feeling, what they were feeling, what triggered their emotions, and how that might impact the novel.”
My students dispersed, and I walked over to meet my new student.
“This is Broderick,” the Assistant Principal said in greeting. Something in her eyes told me she needed to discuss a private matter.
Turning around, I scanned the room. “Marcus,” I called out, picking out an enthusiastic nine year-old, one who loved helping other kids, “can you come here?” When he neared, I leaned down, putting myself on his eye-level. “This is Broderick,” I said, smiling. “Can you read with him, and catch him up on what we’re learning about characters this week?”
The two boys walked away, and I turned back to the Assistant Principal. “What’s going on?” I asked. It was a week into the school year, and I wasn’t expecting any new children in my classroom.
“CPS pulled Broderick out of his mother’s care. She said she’s been homeschooling him, so I don’t know how far behind he is in school.”
Most of my students had entered the fifth grade reading on a third grade level. I taught on the outskirts of inner city Houston, and learned that, in order to get my children on level, I needed to up my game to meet their needs. That was my goal in teaching: educating my students through any means possible, and reaching each student on their level.
Broderick was a quiet child. I grouped him with Marcus over the next two days. Throughout the course of the day, I would hover near their small groupings, trying to listen in on Broderick. But, every time I did, Broderick would clam up, hunch his shoulders, and refuse to speak. I knew something was wrong, and extraordinary measures would be needed to reach him. On the third day, I called Marcus over. “So, tell me about Broderick. Is he catching on? Is he understanding the material? Is he joining in with group activities?”
“You know you won’t get in trouble if you tell me the truth,” I said, feeling like I was pulling information from a Venus Flytrap. They had become best buddies on the playground, and were thick as thieves in the classroom.
“Ms. P,” Marcus said, chewing on his lip, “Broderick, … he can’t read.”
Out of everything my student could have told me, I was not prepared for that. I figured Broderick just wasn’t opening up to the group activities. I started pulling him aside during lessons that day. I opened our History Alive! book, and asked him to read me a passage. My disbelief at Marcus’ claim turned into deep sadness for the young boy sitting in front of me. That day, I stepped into the Assistant Principal’s office, and told her I wanted to schedule a meeting with the Counselor, and Special Ed, to get an IEP in place for Broderick. Due to the fact that we could never get authorized consent from his mother, I spent the rest of the year privately tutoring him, and praying that he wouldn’t be the child who slipped through the cracks.
But, in my heart, I knew if I didn’t fix the problem, he would.
Every day, after class, I pulled him outside the classroom, away from the gossiping ears of his peers. We would work on phonetics, using Bob the Builder books–books that I purchased with my own money. He had outbursts, due to his frustrations. He hated being frowned on for not being able to read. But, by the time he was finally given an IEP, I had raised him to the point of carefully sounding out words. I had also raised my classroom to be respectful of differences in others–especially since my students knew I would call their parents if they didn’t mind my classroom rules.
Shortly after No Child Left Behind was implemented, I left the classroom setting. I left for three reasons: I was an anorexic trying to kill myself through starvation, I felt little support from the very school that should have been listening to my needs, as my students’ teacher, and the government was overstepping its bounds in my classroom, by not allowing me to teach my methods.
And my methods worked. My below average readers–all of them–were on par by the end of the year. My TAKS scores were one of the best in the school. I did my job, as an educator, but felt lost in the bureaucratic tape.
However, over the last few years, I’ve witnessed a growing trend against teachers. Matt Walsh, in this blog articulated the hate for public educators, when he said this:
We bought into the lie that parents, somehow, despite thousands of years of proof otherwise, aren’t capable of teaching their own children. We subscribed to the absurd fiction that education ought to be mass produced and sold in bulk, like toothpicks or toilet paper. Except in this case mass produced and sold in bulk by the government, like bullets or grenade launchers.
I know a lot of people send their kids to public school because they truly have no other choice. I understand that.
Excuse me? The only recourse parents have is to send their children to public, or private school? Why? Because they have no other choice? Otherwise, what? They’d homeschool their child?
Pardon me, I’ve decided to bash my head into the keyboard, and then laugh absurdly over that ridiculous claim.
Our children have been sent to public educators, and private educators, because they carry certified degrees in education. Degrees that provide us–teachers and former teachers–with understandings of how to teach children, how to encourage critical thinking skills, and how to expand their knowledge of the world around them. Not only that, but teachers have an understanding of what grade level would be appropriate for their skill set, and the manner in which they teach.
Have I been able to teach Tiny Tot on my own, without the aid of a certified educator? No. Oh, yeah, … AND I HAVE A CERTIFIED DEGREE. … Um, expired degree. Still, I took the tests, and I remember 86.7% of what I learned back in the day.
I’ve gotten old, people. I’ve gotten old.
I won’t solely teach my tiny human, during his early childhood years, because I have never been an early childhood educator. I’ve known my limitations in teaching. But now, with the Matt Walsh Blog, and his garnered support of hatred toward public and private school teachers, everyone holds the belief that they can be a teacher. With that mindset, everyone could be a rocket scientist, an artist, a writer, a politician, a lawyer, a pipe wielder, a doctor, and a surgeon.
The fact of the matter is this: not everyone carries the inherent capability to teach. That very belief was the reason the government stepped into the public education system. Parents came up with an idea that they knew more than the certified teacher–you know, the one who went to college to earn the privilege to teach children that talk back to them, because Mommy okays it. THAT, these types of parents–people like Matt Walsh–were the sucking force that caused the implementation of No Child Left Behind, and the idiocy that is Common Core.
Society constantly demeans the people who give away every inch of their time trying to figure out how to reach, teach, and instill learning and confidence in other people’s children. They’ve looked down on the educators, and deemed them unworthy of teaching kids. They’ve mocked the teacher’s worth; they’ve mocked the teacher’s very existence. They’ve taken their High School diplomas, and liberal arts degrees, and decided they’re better qualified than the people who took courses in what it means to be an educator.
And, because of that, I’ve started believing that those people are the ones who are unworthy, because they make staying in the field of education difficult.