Saturday, December 5, 2015


Raison d'etre is French for "reason for being," and students who
can’t read, understand, learn, reason or cope with the rigorous high-stakes learning environments (incessant scripted test prep), 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 thinking 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 and reason everything else is moot.

"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were but without it we go nowhere." - Carl Sagan

Reading Boot Camp or Reasoning Boot Camp is not a twenty-day miracle; it’s a way of being a teacher that encourages and inspires curiosity. My raison d’erte is to never let a student pass through my class without teaching them to read and learn to reason period. I have said no to the canned sanitized basal reading systems that are boring at best and useless at worst. 

The 20-day transformation starts with your students finding their own path to philosophical bliss. “love of wisdom and learning.” Twenty days may not do the job; you may need forty or eighty to get the inspiration, curiosity, and love of learning restarted. The inception of Socratic Philosophical Thinkers that thrive academically is a true anagnorisis, a change from ignorance to knowledge. 

We can and do use the One Starfish parable too often in education, and 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. We are teaching things that have no heart, soul, meaning, relevance or we teach in ways that kill curiosity and desire. The idea of focusing on reading and reasoning in class for twenty days 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 and reasoning progress accelerate or realize they can actually read and understand the world with fresh curious eyes. Give a child the most complex computer video game and they will go without food, sleep, bathing, and talking to learn and master the first level. They will spend the next day, week, and month with the singular preoccupation to win and master the game. Children in the third-world with access to computers, sky Tablets or XO laptops will teach themselves to read and write without a teacher because of their incredible desire to learn. I just focus that same incredible intrinsic drive and perseverance into Reading Boot Camp. 

Why Students Drop Out of School!
Students don't drop out of high school at the age of 16 because they feel socially or academically lost... Students start dropping out of school in the first and second grade, just pretending they are students when they can't read or write. Students pick up a litany of bad habits (coping mechanisms) from peers as a way to deal with the stress, fear, humiliation, and embarrassment of being a "Loser, Stupid, or Dumb". Students act institutionalized after twelve years of forced school participation (Failure). Always having to be on the defensive is a sure-fire way to get burned out to drop out.

Many parents that have not taught their child to read before they enter kindergartner have sealed the fate of their child to 12 years of playing ketchup!

I spent most of my time in public school feeling dumb, embarrassed, scared, humiliated, lost, and stupid because of my severe dyslexia and dysgraphia! Sean Taylor

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