By Cecilia Ware — For the past few weeks in my field placement, I have had the opportunity to work with a student who I consider to be at an extreme disadvantage in the classroom, and this is by no fault of her own.
A couple weeks ago, my cooperating teacher suggested to me that I work with this girl one-on-one for an activity, because she could not read very well. This student was initially very reluctant to work with me, she became very uncomfortable and standoffish when I asked her to be my partner. This student is one of the very few well behaved, she is always quiet as a mouse in class. When we finally set to work on the activity, I asked her to read the first paragraph in the text aloud to me. She got past the word “the”, and immediately clammed up.
I figured she was shy and/or embarrassed because she could not pronounce all the words well, so I read along with her and we sounded them out together. She barely spoke above a whisper and was extremely edgy, and getting work done was like pulling teeth; it took forever. Finally, when I asked her if she understood the questions for the activity, she stared down at her paper and shook her head. It was at this point that it dawned on me, she doesn’t just have difficulty reading, she can’t read at all!
Since that day, I have spent much more time with this student, I even got to help her take a test. She has become much more comfortable working and talking with me, and has begun to ask more and more questions in her search for meaning behind words. Regardless, she is so far behind the rest of the class, it seems practically impossible to get her on the same track as her peers.
This frustrates me and has me wondering, how on earth did this student make it all the way to sixth grade without having any idea how to read? How could she possibly have passed any classes prior to sixth grade??
The conclusion that I have come to is that this girl has somehow managed to slip through the cracks every year, just barely getting by because teachers just pass her along and couldn’t be bothered to deal with her or– God forbid — do their jobs and teach her. I find it quite frustrating that this poor girl, along with many other students I’m sure, has been struggling to get by because her blaring hindrance has been overlooked and ignored for years. In all fairness, this student has in no way received the education she has a right to, and is the product of highly insufficient teaching.
Every teacher who has had her in their class up until sixth grade (where her teacher has finally recognized and taken action on the issue) has failed in their duty as an educator by passing her along, knowing the essential skill she lacked and not providing her with the tools to alter the situation. I will continue to work with her, and hope to contribute the most I can to her growth in the classroom and her reading ability. Stay tuned, I’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress!