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. 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…