Twenty-five years ago I took some time off from the law firm and volunteered to work as a teacher’s aide in some of our school districts. On Fridays here at the Daily Dawg I’m going to tell you about my adventures, what I remember, and what I learned.
I started out in an elementary school in Liberty Hill ISD, language arts class, 4th grade. This had the advantage of being within commuting distance for me. Memories:
- The teacher had her own stash of coffee, and advised me to steer clear of the substandard java in the lounge.
- I got to attend a faculty meeting after school on my first day. I don’t remember much about the meeting, except for the obvious observation that there were not many men around. More on this later.
- I got to read to individual students. I remember two in particular—let’s call them The Boy and The Girl. I was told to have The Boy read to me, and he did that quite well. The teacher told me that he could read the words well enough, but that it was unlikely he would be able to tell me much about what he read, and that was spot on. The Boy read fluently, not stumbling over words. But when I asked him a few questions about the passage, it was clear that there was a lack of comprehension.
I took The Girl to the classroom library for her to pick out a book and I asked her what kind of book she liked. She said “I want a book where the dog doesn’t die.” She added, “Actually, I’d like a book where nobody dies.” That stopped me in my tracks.
- Every week the teacher gave a short spelling quiz—ten simple words. She showed me one boy’s answers and he had missed six or seven. The teacher told me there was a direct connection between his success on this and his medications. When he took the meds he scored 8-10 correct. Today—no meds. This was the type of data that would be helpful to the parent.
- The teacher was using a program called Accelerated Reader to track student progress. As a lawyer, I could instantly see how AR information would be good evidence in a due process hearing. Years later I heard educators criticize AR for its simplistic approach. That’s probably a good criticism but for legal purposes of showing that the student is or is not progressing, I thought AR produced the kind of measurable data that hearing officers and judges would understand.
When my son was about five years old and he heard me say something about “Liberty Hill” he thought it was Little Bitty Hill. Thus it has remained in my mind ever since. My calendar notations at the end of my week in the 4th grade in Little Bitty Hill included “I will miss these kids.” I was only with them for four days, but by Friday, I was getting the big eye from some flirtatious little girls, and the boys all wanted to sit next to me at lunch and to throw the football with them at recess. I had done nothing special to deserve such attention. It was the novelty of seeing an adult male, hearing a baritone voice in the classroom. I don’t think there were any other men in that building.
That’s too bad. We could sure use more men in the elementary schools.
DAWG BONE: ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS CONTINUE TO SAVE THE WORLD.
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