Next post will address some of the early findings of the Down Reading Profiles Study that Tonya Moore, Amy Williams, and I are conducting over Skype.
If God's the game that you're playing
Well, we must get more acquainted
Because it has to be so lonely... to be the only one who's holy
(Paramore, Playing God, 2010)
My wife and I had visitors this week from a town we used to live in many years ago. Nancy is a friend of ours, who has a son, Aaron, who is good friends with my middlest son, Will. Will used to love going over to Aaron's house, because he had a bigger tv than us, better video games, and a pet ferret. Life doesn't get much better than that for young guys.
Aaron also has a life complicated by brain cancer, which he survived as a six-year-old, and remains free of to this day. His life was further complicated a few years ago, when Nancy had a stroke. One of the results of that stroke is that reading is often difficult for her. She told us during the visit about a day, several years ago, when Aaron brought home some papers from school. She asked him to read one of them to her, and he said he couldn't. She pushed him to explain, and he admitted that as a high school junior he was unable to read. She went to his high school to find out what could be done and was told that it was too late for Aaron to learn.
Apparently those arrogant, ignorant, so-called educators are not familiar with students like Don Johnston or Andrew Sheehan. Don was an 8th grader before his English teacher, Mrs. Tedesco, helped him finally learn to read. Don wrote a book about his experiences for other students who struggle. It's entitled Building Wings, and you can read it free online or purchase a copy. Don's company, Don Johnston Inc., makes tools and materials to help students like Don and Aaron learn to read and write. Andrew was made as unwelcome as a school can possibly make a child feel through the sixth grade. He learned to write as a teenager when he was introduced to Co:Writer (one of Don Johnston's products), Inspiration (a planning software), and speech recognition software for composition, among other supports. You can read about his story in an article he and his mother co-authored in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. His article begins:
I can't write. I can't spell. I can't pay attention.
I can't hold a pencil properly. I can't form letters.
Grammar eludes me and to top it off, I can't hear half of what is going on around me.
I'm writing this article despite my biological destiny.
Aaron is now several years out of high school, working part-time, and living at home. He receives a variety of disability-related services but still cannot read. Nancy has asked if I could do an assessment and figure out how to help. I'll be doing that over Skype (just like we've done in the Down Syndrome Reading Profiles Study) since we live many hundreds of miles apart. I'll let you know what we figure out and what we decide to do about it in a future blog post. Stay tuned.
Here's the thing. I figure God's job is taken and completed with far more competence than I (or a high school educator) could possibly achieve. Consequently, I choose not to play God. I choose to believe that people learn what they are taught, if teachers figure out how to teach them in ways that make sense to the students. I choose not to predetermine students' learning success or failure. I take the blame when my students fail to learn, and I try to do better tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Dave is motivated by students' learning successes.
Since Oct. 1, 2013