Public school teacher Sherry Wood (no relation) had a powerful response to my recent post called “Flunking Third Grade.” She offers it here as a guest commentary:
As a 27-year veteran teacher of 3rd grade, I found these headlines appalling. It is so frustrating to me when politicians make blanket statements about what children should know and by what age.
Have they ever been responsible for a year’s educational growth for a child? Have the politicians ever greeted a child at the door when his father has been taken away from home last night because he was selling drugs out of the family apartment?
Have they ever snuck a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter in a child’s backpack on a Friday afternoon because it is the end of the month, and she came to school hungry and as a teacher you are so worried about her not eating all weekend?
Have they ever looked into the eyes of a child whose parents fight day and night and is afraid if he does not get perfect grades it might cause his dad to leave again, and this time for good?
If the world was perfect and a child had two parents at home with stable jobs, and a stable home life, and who sent children to school emotionally ready to learn during the day, and supported learning at home in the evenings and weekends with time and energy, then perhaps blanket benchmarks could be set. Children have to be emotionally available for me to teach. I work hard to build a community in my room, to make them feel accepted, loved and safe, but I can’t follow them home. I can only share them with their parents for that year.
These are my students, not employees I can fire if they are not doing their “jobs”. Politicians come from the business world where they deal with adults, not children. I do not have the knowledge or know how to run a business, nor do they have what it takes to run my classroom.
—Sherry Wood, third grade teacher
I’d love to know:
–How do other teachers out there feel about the increased numbers of states returning to academic retention for failure on reading tests in third grade?
–What supports do you think are needed in the early grades to help the struggling students in your classrooms?
–Does your district have funds for summer school reading programs for first, second, and third graders?
–What kind of before- and after-school supports does your school provide for struggling readers?
–What do you consider the keys to reading success for young struggling readers?
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