I Originally Posted this August 18, 2023 on Social Media after we got our poodle spayed • By Lesa Quale Ferguson
Our “poodler” (as Cal calls her) Wonder got spayed yesterday. We dropped her off and then did an interview to promote the phonics based reading program (ARC) his school Stanley Falk uses.
I was happy to do it.
I still struggle getting over the hard feelings I have about Cal’s old school which I talked about in the interview.
The other day, I ran into a speech therapist that Cal had for a short time. We asked each other questions about his old school and about departing from it.
Whenever I speak to someone from that school who doesn’t follow me online, there is a brief awkward moment. I think we both can tell the other had some rift with the school that social circumstances prevent us from delving into. I invariably bring up a teacher that I still treasure. There is a momentary relief toward the positive. I say, “I guess that was the problem, the wonderful teachers kind of buffalo’ed me into thinking all was well.” Invariably, we discuss the curriculum, the politics, the school system. When the conversation ends, there is this mutual sigh that follows from both of us. The sigh leaves me in a hard place – “impossible to fix. Just take care of our own – kid, job, whatever.”
I did take care of my own. In doing so I discovered these issues are NOT impossible to fix. In fact, at our house we fixed them.
At Cal’s old school, they did change to a phonics based system for his 3rd grade year. The teachers gave the kids a test and then set the program at the average grade level of the class and then Vaffanculo (Italian slang for f’ ’em) whoever was at any other reading level. Oh the handfuls of failed spelling tests he brought home. Words he wasn’t taught to read but was required to spell.
These poor kids had all come in from the pandemic (after they had spent their first 3 years getting dragged down by the “balanced reading” curriculum). In the school’s last assessment from 2021, there wasn’t one black kid in Cal’s class that could read proficiently Yes, I am mad about this obvious inequity but even more than that, I am mad because they blame kids. They blamed Cal as if there was something wrong with him. They don’t teach kids to read and then blame them with failure.
Scientifically, 95% of kids can read if taught. Watching Cal learn to read has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Reading is the key that unlocks education. His confidence and curiosity came along for the ride.
In the back of the car with Wonder after she has been spayed, Cal was worried about how we should take care of her. He didn’t know. Two years ago, I would have had to pull the car over to deal with the dysregulation this anxiety caused. Today, I told him to read the materials they sent home with us. He read some of it to himself, some of it out loud for help, and then he sounded out the word “anesthesia.” When we got home, he instructed Dave Ferguson on when to give Wonder her medicine. Reading empowers.
Schools should teach children to read. It’s the very least that is required.