Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reading and Reasoning: Raison d'etre


Raison d'etre is French for "reason for being," and students who can’t read feel they have no reason for being in school. Students will start thinking school is a prison and will behave and act institutionalized towards teachers, peers and academics. Students get more cynical when the gold stars lose their luster, and teachers' mendacity about their performance start showing through the insight of their poor skills and inability to perform academic tasks.
It’s a small death suffered every day by these students, as they see their dreams crashed on the rocks of reality. We ask students to come to school daily and give 100% to what they believe is an intolerable humiliation, and we get angry when they don’t smile and take school more seriously. We scratch our heads, wondering what we can do when half of our kids drop out of school. If students can’t read, every thing else is moot. 

     Reading Boot Camp is not a twenty day miracle; it’s a way of being a teacher. My raison d’erte is to never let a student pass through my class without teaching them to read - period. Twenty days may not do the job; you may need forty or eighty to get the job done. We can use the One Star Fish analogy, but that sacrifices too many students to a devastating future. Students are not going to change unless we devise an effective way to change their outlook.
     The idea of doing nothing in class for twenty days except reading may appear bizarre, ludicrous, like child abuse, impossible, or asinine; yet, it works for my kids. Students see it as perfectly logical and 'buy in' almost immediately when they see their reading progress or realize they can actually read. Give a child the most complex video game and they will go without food, sleep, bathing, and talking with family to master the first level. They will spend the next day, week, and month with the singular preoccupation to master the game. 

Third-world students who receive the unesco XO laptop teach themselves to read and write without a teacher because of their incredible desire to learn. I just focus that same incredible drive and perseverance into Reading Boot Camp.

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