“Two vowels are walking, the first one does the talking.”
That little nugget is one of many “secrets” my 7-year-old ball of sunshine learned about reading from his kindergarten teacher last school year.
This summer, we pushed him to read books beyond his level. One we’re still working on is Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.” What’s better than a story about a mischievous cat that barges into your home, takes the cake out of the fridge and eats it while taking a bath in your tub?
During our reads, we often come across words he’s never seen. That’s when he’ll occasionally cite one of these secrets, as he calls them, imparted by his teacher, to help as he suffers through each syllabic slog. (I’m a big believer in suffering. A child who learns to properly suffer gets all the whining and crying out just in time for adulthood.)
Sunshine starts first grade on Wednesday. He’s excited. This too is new.
School didn’t come easy for him, and for most of his illustrious academic career he’s hated it. Too many rules, not enough fun. He loves fun. When he’s whining about something, it’s usually because it’s not fun enough. Two years ago, the principal had to retrieve him off the playground because he refused to leave recess.
Sunshine is a bit of a tornado. He spent his first kindergarten year getting used to the structure and discipline required to be in school. I’m no astronaut, but I’d venture a guess that Sunshine was one of the more difficult kids at the school. Teachers don’t admit that to parents, but I can tell. I’m sure it helps that he’s a wonderful weirdo with the most upbeat demeanor of any child known to mankind, a wide grin always stretched across his pizza- and cookie-smudged face.
After his first year, the Havre Public Schools staff made a few recommendations we thought long and hard about and eventually agreed with.
The school’s recommendations paid major dividends. By mid-last year, he no longer needed speech therapy. And by the end of the year, he was, for the most part, a model student. He was reading, doing math, and almost always behaving. (He gets a little slack in the behavior department from his parents because he’s a wild boy and American public schools are geared more toward girls than boys.)
The word on the street is that teachers are underpaid and have a difficult job. As someone in the only other profession that pays less than teachers, I can relate.
But I can only imagine how difficult it is trying to teach a small herd of children in a world where parents are working more and spending less time with their children, in a society where kids are glued to screens and have the attention span of squirrels. I can only imagine how hard it is to be a teacher while dealing with the bureaucratic, often senseless rules that paralyze our schools with piles of paperwork. And that, I’m sure, is only a fraction of the issues teachers face.
Teresa and I are so grateful for the amazing job the school staff has done with Sunshine. We know it wasn’t easy, and it won’t be for his next teacher, either.
There are few things more awesome than watching your child turn into a more functional human being day by day.
Good luck to all the hardworking Hi-Line teachers this year.
Email Paul Dragu at firstname.lastname@example.org