The other day when I was cleaning out the bookcase shelf of VCR tapes to make room for Joan’s cookbooks, I also had to clear out a row of children’s book that were stored there. I guess we kept them in case some kids came to visit at our house (I’m pretty sure we never had the occasion to use them). Amongst the books were a couple of reading primers that I had used when I was teaching in a one room school. Seeing it brought back some memories.
Back in 1973 when Joan and I arrived in the logging camp on Takla Lake to start and teach in the one room school, there were absolutely no school supplies at all because the school district hadn’t been able to find a teacher, so there was some doubt as to whether there would be a school that year. Once I was there ready to teach, I had to order and wait for supplies to come. I had never actually been in a school in British Columbia, so I wasn’t sure what would be coming and when I got the supplies, I was dismayed that there were no primers or early reading books to guide me in teaching reading to the first graders.
I think at the time BC’s Ministry of Education was going through one of its “new theories in education” modes, and no longer believed in text books. I, however, still believed in the old methods of phonics and graduated texts and was very frustrated that I didn’t have any to use.
I mentioned it to my mother, and she sent me some ancient primers (actually the same ones that had been used when I was in the first grade). Despite their age, they were very helpful and in using them, I taught all of my first graders to read, which I felt was one of my most important jobs.
I remember getting a new first grader late in the school year. When I checked on her abilities, I discovered that she didn’t know how to read. I inquired to her parents and was told that in the school she had previously attended, the teacher’s attitude toward reading was, “She will learn to read when she wants to.”
I found this appalling, and immediately started teaching her to read, whether she “wanted” to or not. I don’t think she had ever thought about it, and when it was presented, she accepted that that’s what we did in school, and there was no problem. She was soon reading at the same level as my other students.
I still remember Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and Puff from my first grade. Those old memories from your youth really stick in your head.
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