An Unexpected Lesson from a Great Teacher: ACSA's Learning and Teaching Task Force Will Create a Plan So All Students Can Become Literate-As Readers, Mathematicians, Scientists, Citizens

Article excerpt

It may be possible, now and then, to learn something by oneself. But most of the time we learn because we were lucky enough to encounter someone who both cared and was able to teach.

In my second year of teaching I was responsible for 27 first-graders. They were great students. However, I noticed that three of them weren't learning to read. At conference time I asked their parents if these students could stay after school each day, for just a few minutes, so that we could work on their reading skills. During the second week or so of this routine, as we sat in a small circle, "round-robin" reading a story, I was transported back to my own first-grade experience.

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Catching up

I remember being in trouble a lot during first grade at Riverside School in Sacramento. While other students had projects to do, I was given the opportunity to sit alone and draw. I had no idea why this was. I do remember that I wasn't particularly upset when I was told mid-year that I would be moving to Mrs. Strong's class.

Soon after transferring, Mrs. Strong met with my mother and me after school. I remember Mrs. Strong saying, "George is the second-best reader in our classroom, and I think he could really move even further ahead if he stayed with me after school and worked with the best reader."

So every day Robert and I stayed after and read "Janet and Mark" with Mrs. Strong. We'd read the stories and then she'd get me to read the vocabulary list in the back of the book. Without the context I really struggled with the words. But I was motivated to be able to read them as fast as Robert. Mrs. Strong made me believe that I could catch him.

We'd race to see who could read the list the fastest. Robert always won. After days of practice I could read the list nearly as fast, but then Mrs. …