Bless the Children with Boredom

Bless the Children with Boredom

A child walking down the street nearly bumped into me as he did something with his smartphone. In the laundromat, a brother and sister sat side-by-side; each staring at a different video. On the subway train, a boy of not more than six played a video game. None of these children was bored.

Much of my childhood was filled with long stretches of boredom. I grew up in a primitive age when television stations still signed off late at night and did not start back up again for hours. Sometimes, with only a handful of channels to watch, there as nothing that could keep my attention. I could go and knock on the neighbor boy’s front door; but he might not be there . . . or his parents might not let him come out and play. I could not send surreptitious text messages. No one could send me links to videos on the Internet. I could go and read a book. Truth be known, though – books were most often neglected companions. And my parents, as patient as they were with their son who tended to hover around adults more than most children, sometimes told me to go outside and play. Continue reading

The Love of Stories Read Aloud

The Love of Stories Read Aloud

She began almost every class after lunch by reading to us.

We were sixth-graders. She was our teacher during the class period right before lunch and the class period right after. The subjects she taught were English and Social Studies.

How could one possibly teach anything to adolescents before and after lunch? It was crazy . . . something that could only make sense to a middle school administrator.

Fifteen minutes. Sometimes twenty or more. She read to us as we digested our meals and cooled down from time on the playground. I can still hear Mrs Y’s voice. I can even remember many of the stories she read from books about twelve and thirteen year-olds like ourselves.  Continue reading

The Puppet and Mrs S

The Puppet and Mrs S

I was dyslexic before educators knew what dyslexic was. So, seeking to explain why I couldn’t spell, why I stumbled all over whatever I was told to read aloud, and why I was slow to complete assignments, I was called lazy, stupid, and an assortment of other things. The low-point of my first grade year in school was being made to stand in the corner of the room as punishment for not being able to read a paragraph aloud without errors. Humiliation was part of pedagogy back then. I was an over-sensitive child who felt like I was being put into the public stocks in a 17th century New England town.

I don’t know how I eventually got referred to the school’s reading specialist. That came after I’d gotten to the point that I hated school and I’d even stopped having interest in books (which I’d loved since my parents started reading to me — long before my earliest memories).

Mrs S was a young woman in her mid-20s. Of course, she didn’t seem young to me at the time (mid-20s being on the nearer end of ‘ancient’). She was an openly kind and compassionate person. She was a keen observer and she did not rush to label behaviour. The first few weeks she watched me, sat and talked with me, and encouraged me to read. I couldn’t.  Continue reading

The Point of All Learning

The Point of All Learning

The point of all learning is the improvement of character.

This is written across the top of the whiteboard in my office. It is there as a personal and professional statement of purpose.

When I was about seven years old, right about this time of year, my dad was setting up his classroom at an elementary school in New Hudson, Michigan. It was late afternoon and golden light was flooding that room in the old schoolhouse. Dad had been watching me for the day. He’d kept me busy with tasks like lining up the desks in perfect rows, rewashing the chalkboard so that it met his standards of clean, and organizing the pens and pencils in his desk. It was perfect training for a child who would one day grow up to have very fine OCD habits of his own. Then, as my stomach reminded me that the day was nearly done, Dad suddenly stopped what he was doing and summoned my attention by calling my name.

‘Glen, there are two things you need to know and remember:  Continue reading