I teach middle school. Grades six through eight we are in our school, but seventh-grade is the best. For six years I taught eighth grade, and now this is my 10th year in seventh grade. They are old enough to have a conversation with adults and understand sarcasm to an extent. But more importantly, they can are not jaded, and I can still have a huge impact on their future lives so that it can be the most literate and prosperous for these young adults.
A little bit about myself. I never learned to comprehend until I was age 16. I remember school was always difficult for me; I was in the low bluebird group of readers in grades 1 and 2. Although I went to a very small private school with sometimes as few as six people in Agreat, they really did not understand each learner.
During the summer between my sophomore and junior’s year of high school, I was a summer exchange students in the Netherlands. It was such a small town that the last American had been there 10 years before. Only the daughter who is coming to the United States two months later spoke English. I should clarify that the father of the family spoke about five words of English all related to farming since he worked for the Dutch government department for farming and land. The two older brothers in their late teens had some experience speaking English, but disliked Americans unlike the parents who remembered fondly and and still appreciated the World War II commitment even though it was 30+ years later. The boys were jaded. President Nixon had resigned in embarrassment not many years before , and the rest of the “young” world didn’t understand how and were surprised our government still went on with it same strength.
I remember being so lonely since no one in the town spoke English. My sister sent me many books, but I really didn’t understand why. One day in earnest and feeling very homesick, I opened one of John Jake’s books all about the American Revolution that I was missing the celebration for back in the States. That was the beginning! I fell in love with the family of characters who participated in the founding of our wonderful country.
That was also the beginning of my love for reading. It had only taken 16 years. School had passed me on little by little regardless of how small my elementary or how large my 50+ student kindergarten class was. I read those six books over twice. Yes, they were much longer than any I had ever read, and I learn to read the ending of the book first. Somehow my mind told me that I would be able to understand the book better if I knew where the story was going. That was correct. It took me a long time to realize that reading the end of the story ruined it in advance. However, more importantly, by reading the ending first, it taught me how to understand and comprehend what I was reading. Little did I know it that point, that I was actually using highly effective reading strategies that I now press upon my students on a daily basis.
I remember as a third grader wanting to be a teacher. I had just left Mrs. Snyder’s first and second grade classes where she looped with us. Of course at that time, I did not know that that was the term for teachers following students. Those years had been very hard. Not only had she berated me for what I ate each day in my lunch — which my mother had packed — although the way Mrs. Snyder acted apparently a 6 & 7 year-old was responsible for her lunch, I never seemed to do anything right. My penmanship was too small or too big or I was talking and had to wear the dunce cap while sitting on a stool with my nose against the wall. I didn’t like school, and never felt like I fit in.
But back to being a 16-year-old in a foreign country during the celebration of celebrations the Bicentennial of the United States of America. I realized that those words on the page created a picture in my mind. Wow, visualization. No one had ever told me that that’s what I was aiming for as a reader. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next once I finally finally got into the stories and understood. It was hard going. Definitely not easy since I really didn’t put all the ideas together. I was what I word caller. I knew what the words meant and I could read them, but I had no idea what all the words together created. Every day reading became excitement although the challenge was great.
Somehow all the pieces suddenly after 16 years fit together. Hence, the name for this blog.