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education rant

It has been a long time since I have posted one of my tirades about this topic. Of course, I have not had a child in my house lately. (That might need to change soon.)

When I was in undergrad, I spent several semesters working toward certification in elementary/special ed before switching to my psych major. The only thing I did not complete was my semester of student teaching. So I have 60 hours of ed courses and 24 hours of psych courses. I also tried an ESL certification and got bogged down due to no Spanish books, no way to access IPA characters in linguistics courses, etc. So I also have a linguistics course and 14 hours of Spanish. The program was structured so that I had a great amount of experience in the classroom in addition to the potential student teaching semester. I did a semester of practicum in special ed and two semesters of internship in elementary ed. (I am giving you the major details here. This is a complex story, and do not be surprised when you learn other elements of it at some other time.) During the special ed practicum I was in an itinerant program serving children from birth to junior high. During the next semester I was in a classroom serving children with learning disabilities in grades 2-4. One of my primary duties in this classroom was monitoring progress of second-graders with reading disabilities in a phonics program. During the third semester I was in a grade 5 ESL classroom, in which I taught math to small groups of students and did one-on-one drills.

After graduation, I spent a year tutoring a 4th-grade homeschooler who had low vision and assisting the family with modifying their computer, adjusting his font size, etc. I then spent three years doing early childhood ministry. Later, I spent three years doing nearly full-time direct care for a child from age 6-8. During this time there were some significant experiences concerning reading homework--the child started out in a phonics-based program and ended up in an entirely different program the following year. So I know whereof I speak when I say the following.

A six-year-old does not need to know how to spell the word anemometer. Nor does a six-year-old need to memorize its meaning ... Unless she is simply curious.

What prompted this tirade?

My friend posted on her Facebook that this word was on her first-grade daughter's spelling list. Her first-grade daughter had to educate her as to the meaning of the word.

I question the wisdom of a society that gives its children complex words to spell and memorize without teaching them rudimentary reading skills. This is what I have seen happening over the last 15 years. I am not convinced that so many children actually have learning disabilities as are being diagnosed. I am convinced that many children have suffered the sacrifice of their reading education in favor of more attractive things in order to compete in the global economy. We have become poorer communicators because of this. I am not saying that I am completely against the whole language method; but I am saying that in some cases teachers have completely abandoned the teaching of any skills in basic decoding skills in favor of pure guesswork. This will not help students at all in the long run; and my opinion is that it actually can create reading disabilities.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 1st, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
as a scientist, I agree on a six year old not needing to know anemometer unless they were curious. Maybe they were doing a lesson on weather, or something related, so it came up. Maybe they have a weather station in the class? I don't know. Anemometer seems waaay out of place for a 6 year old...

Then again, we have some strange words for chess (castling, and en passant) and 6 year olds know them, but those are necessary as those are parts of the rules of the game. But I've never quizzed them as to how to spell them. ( I've taught chess to kids before)
Apr. 1st, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
It turns out that as I was posting this, she posted a comment saying that it was a bonus word. That is a lot different from having it as a word on the list itself. That I can deal with. But my comments about the teaching of basic reading skills still stand.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 1st, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
I don't recall having heard of it either, and I'm 30!
Apr. 1st, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
I know that I certainly wouldn't be as good as I am with language now if I hadn't learned about latin and greek roots of words and how to decipher an unknown word based on what we know about prefixes and suffixes.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah Blake LaRose
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