February 6, 2008

On Tuesdays, I attend Tutor Training.    Last night was my introduction to how people learn to read.

Now, I don’t recall how I learned to read.   I don’t think any fancy techniques were employed and I don’t think I was any child prodigy, but I just don’t have any memories of Readin, ‘Ritin, and ‘Rithmetic: “The Early Years.”

I don’t remember any frustration.   I don’t recall any nagging to get my homework down.   dick_and_jane.jpg Maybe the book, Dick & Jane and Spot?   or is that the one that always got made fun of so now we remember it. 

What I DO remember is memorization.   I went to a parochial school and oh!  the bible verses!!    And I seem to have a memory of adults telling me that I’ll always remember those bible verses!   But I don’t.    John 3:16, yep.   The others?  not so much.

Point of the previous paragraphs is that READING IS HARD?!   And I must have learned it by osmosis?    I don’t recall the process so how am I going to teach this stuff?   Especially to someone who – I’m imagining – is terrified and self-conscious and embarrassed?    And trying to live a hard life making ends meet?

I can see the very real possibility of me becoming frustrated, “how come you don’t ‘get’ this?!”     I see a futility in any process that approaches too little too infrequently.    Ten words per week?    Really?

Then you hear stories of immigrants who come to the US and learn an amazing amount of language skills by watching television.   And yet, there are others, who can’t even get the simplest of phrases communicated.   It boggles my mind.

Of course, speaking the language and READING the language are two different things.   

I’m still boggled. 

Phonics?   Wikipedia describes it as a political idealogy.    I admitted to the class that I didn’t know what phonics was, and that is because I associate it the term with a debated approach to learning how to read and not exactly whatever it is.   The fact that I learned to read using a phonetic approach is irrelevant to me.   But I probably did.   I just don’t have a CONCRETE idea come to my mind as to what ‘Phonics’ means.  

By telling me that phonics is only learning what sounds the letters make…

Oh.  OK.  I get it.   [but not why it is political?]   Sure, I know my letters and my sounds.  (Even that has been debated at parties here in New England;  but I CAN pronounce my Rs!    I don’t pronounce names right but I say it’s an accent issue NOT a pronuncation issue.   I mean, really!  I’ve been told that I don’t say the name ‘Bob’ right.   HUH!??!   and I know I don’t give much distinction between merry and marry and Mary.   Too fucking bad.  Get over it.   At least I don’t say idear…)

And this is why I told the tutor that I am concerned and questioning my abilities to help with the ESOL population of our clientele.    If I can’t talk correctly with the natives of New England, how can I help someone that can’t speak rudimentary English?    I’m intimidated enough.

I recall getting lost in Whitman while on the cellphone trying to find a friend who kept yelling/telling me to turn left on BUELLER Street and I was too stupid to realize she was saying BEULAH…    sigh.  Neither one of us thought it was funny when I figured out what she was trying to tell me.     

It’s possible that my tutoring role will end up being focused on GED mathematics and computer skills.    I can do that.   I think I can do that.  I HOPE I can do that!   I haven’t had those training sessions yet…


  1. Whatever you decide you will be wonderful at helping others..I can say this because I have been reading your blog for a while now!
    All will work out as it should. 🙂

  2. Thanks Gypsy-heart. I know, I know, I was a tad overwhelmed last night but I’m sure it will be fun and rewarding for everyone. or not and we move on, right?! Thanks so much for reading AND commenting.

  3. I’m astounded at the number of people who come here and learn to read and write. I’m surrounded by people who speak two languages fluently, while I can barely remember a half dozen words in Spanish. I give you a lot of credit for what you’re doing. I think you’re going to be really good at this.

  4. @Wendy, REALLY?! I hope so. Thanks for the credit. I sometimes feel so gosh darn small. But – hey, I have to keep a perspective… and one look at the news says whatever I want to do is what I need to do. anyway, nevermind… Thanks – I think you are pretty cool. 🙂

  5. I went to French parochial school through the third grade. Somehow I managed to learn how to read. I’m sure we were taught words phonetically which I think is the correct approach. I know they don’t use phonics now like they used to and kids are coming out of high school not knowing how to read or spell.

    I spent a lot of time with my kids before they went to school teaching them their letters and reading to them and sounding out words. They both could read pretty well before they got into first grade.

    Well, whatever you do, I’m sure you’ll give it your best shot and do a good job at it.

  6. Thanks Joan! I’ll give it my Benatar (best shot)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: