Note to self: Clean your oven and figure out what that funky smell is in the vicinity of the sink

Dead rodent? Black mold? I do not know. It comes and goes. Yesterday morning, I fully expected to have to clean the whole area under the sink out after work (it needs it anyway). When I got home, I could not smell it. This afternoon? Sorta… I am trying to ignore it for the time being.

I am still clanked up about education today so move along if you aren’t interested in that topic. I assure you, all you will find in this space today are the rantings and ravings of yer fav-o-rite blahgger.

First of all, I know I am dreaming here but I think that there should be a requirement that all of the legislators who want to dabble in education, especially K12, actually spend some time getting their hands dirty volunteering (or teaching if they are qualified) in a classroom. I mean *significant* time, not just reading a book to a kindergarten class as a publicity stunt. As a *mom*, one who cared about her kids’ education, I have spent many many hours of my life volunteering in the public schools they attended. I have seen first-hand how difficult life is for our teachers and I can see how easy it is for children, especially those without a lot of support at home, to fall through the cracks.

So let me tell you about a few of my pirates. When the beach urchins were at Haisley Elementary, a bunch of teachers and parents dreamed up what they called the P.I.R.A.T.E.S. program. Volunteers were paired with students who struggled with reading to read with them on an individual basis once a week. We could help them read or read to them. There were no metrics surrounding this program (that I know of), the idea was that these kids were identified as needing some extra attention.

Of course I volunteered for this. I started reading to Lizard Breath as soon as she was able to sit up and make the connection that my words were explaining the pictures in the book. Mouse’s Train Ride. I think she was about six months old and I can still remember her hyperventilating each time we turned a page. By the time she was four, I was reading The Wind in the Willows to her. I remember reading some parenting article in the newspaper one time that proclaimed that parents should read to a kindergartner a half hour a day. At that point in my life, I was lucky to get away with anywhere near as little as a half hour of reading. More like two hours, if Lizard Breath had her way. I continued to read books aloud to my children for years, well after they became competent readers. I would sometimes read while they ate breakfast and I will never forget reading The Indian in the Cupboard to three generations on the Moominbeach.

So, I got my first pirate, a first grader. She was excited to be pulled out of class to read with me (and sometimes Mouse if she wasn’t at nursery school). I don’t know what I expected but this cute, friendly little blonde girl, so much like my own children, didn’t seem to be able to read. Or sometimes even pay attention when I read *to* her. Once when Mouse *was* there, *Mouse* was paying more attention to the [simple] storybook than my pirate was.

The next year, the first-grade pirate I was assigned was interested in books when I read them but not that interested in decoding the words herself. She did tell me some stories of her own though, although they were not all that intelligible… Something about voodoo once. And another story about her uncle parking on a street in [New York City?] and getting shot? What? I know this stuff happens. But, despite the fact that this kid’s first language was English, I could not understand what she said. And she didn’t seem to be asking for help. Just telling a story.

One year, I had three pirates (that year did me in). These pirates were all in fourth grade. One of them was struggling to read but valiantly trying. One day she said something about having lunch at “Fred’s Place”. Say what? What the heck was Fred’s Place? Well, Fred’s Place turned out to be a group that somebody formed at the school for kids who had an addicted parent. I was the PTO treasurer at that time and man, did that group ever fly under the radar.

I can only remember one other pirate. It was the year I had the three. This kid? Her mother had a doctorate degree (yes, a doctorate) in education and this kid could not read. What is bad about that, you are asking? Kids from all walks of life struggle. Well. Because this mom did not seem to be around. She was off traveling around giving talks and yada yada and this young kid was struggling to learn to read *in fourth grade*. But also? Trying to date… Sigh…

I do not know what happened to any of these kids. My first two pirates were only in the school for a year. Who knows how many schools they have had to adjust to throughout their lives. Of course, none of us volunteers were told *anything* about the family situation the kids came from. I am only inferring things about that from what the kids felt free to tell me (and in the last case, the neighborhood scuttlebutt). But it was clear to me from spending time with these kids that no matter how much their parents loved them and tried to care for them, there were challenges.

Why do we think *teachers* can do it all? I am not trying to say that any of these kids would have learned to read earlier or at least easier if they had parents who had the time and the inclination to read to them like I used to read to my kids. I know that there are plenty of kids whose parents *do* read to them at a young age who still struggle when they get to school. None of this stuff is black and white.

Why can’t our wondrous legislators understand how much the success of our students depends on what is going on in their homes. I have never taken a standardized test that I didn’t ace but I do not think that evaluating our teachers should be based on those. Those legislators who think they have a handle on how to reform education should spend enough time volunteering in a classroom to realize that they need to help the *families* of those children who will inevitably fail all of those damned standardized tests.

I am sure that tomorrow I will regret something that I have written tonight. But here goes.

Good night,
kayak woman

2 Responses to “Note to self: Clean your oven and figure out what that funky smell is in the vicinity of the sink”

  1. Margaret Says:

    I hate smells I can’t identify!! Boo about that. I also read incessantly to my girls as did my parents and sometimes my husband. (he’s not a reader, so it wasn’t his favorite thing to do) A “special” treat for the kids was being allowed to stay up later to READ. (not watch TV) Out of it, I got two great students and one voracious reader. (Ashley) Alison is like her dad and pretty indifferent to reading, although she can read just fine and is reading some fiction now and enjoying it. There is SO much about our students that we can’t control, but get blamed for anyway. It’s depressing and frustrating!

  2. jane Says:

    I LOVED the summer with the Indian in the Cupboard. I can’t remember what time we gathered on the beach each day (2? 3?) but loved it. except that you didn’t read enough chapters each day – I wanted more. sure I was in my 30’s or 40’s, but it was the BEST!