May 5, 2006

I Am an Expert Teacher

My kindergarten aged son passed his end-of-first-grade reading mastery test.

He had 3 minutes to read a 180 word passage (readability level: grade 1.1) with less than three errors. He did it in under 2 minutes with only one error (wpm = 107).

I'm claiming full responsibility since I've been doing reading lessons with him for the past year and his school is using the execrable Kid Writing which, if any, just served to confuse him and teach him bad habits (guessing at words). For the most part, I used a instructional program suitable for classroom use, so I'm thinking I can extrapolate my success into being able to teach a classroom full of bright kids like my son.

I am an expert teacher. A reading specialist, if you will.

Right about now, any teachers reading this blog are probably screaming.

My entire argument is based on a logical fallacy: that my ability to successfully teach one bright kid to read means that I can successfully teach a classroom full of kids, even kids who don't learn as easily. Yet, this is the same logical fallacy teachers themselves use when they claim to know how to teach almost any child, even when their only experience is teaching bright middle-class kids. And, even though there is overwhelming evidence that shows how ineffective our educators are with average and lower performers.

I also found out that you really don't have to be a very good teacher to teach smart kids. I am certainly not a very good teacher by any stretch of the imagination. My pedagogical technique is the same one I use when speaking to non-English speaking tourists. When my student doesn't understand the point I am trying to make, I simply repeat the point more slowly and more loudly. If further encouragement is needed, I occasionally threaten violence. And, guess what, invariably, he eventually gets whatever point I was trying to make by the time the next lesson rolls around.

Basically, he's teaching himself despite my inept presentation. My teaching does not have to be very careful because he'll eventually learn what he needed to learn by the time we need to move on to new material. All I need is a room full of bright students and I can teach with the best of them.

Of course it helped tremendously that I picked a coherent curriculum. All I had to do was slavishly follow it. And, the boy actually liked his lessons. No doubt because he was always successful at learning. Kids like learning and showing off what they learn. I never had a motivation issue with which to contend, because he never lost motivation or became frustrated.

And guess what? I didn't need any parental support either. Remember I'm the parent and I was too busy doing all the teaching. As a teacher, I didn't need any external help or support. From day one I was ahead of the formal instruction he was receiving in his kindergarten class. This was by design; I did not want to be teaching reactively.

When the teaching was effective, as mine clearly was, you don't really need outside help. And, if my teaching wasn't very effective, many parents might do what I did. I didn't provide parental support, I bypassed the entire formal education process and the potentially ineffective instruction and taught the material myself in a way that was completely different than what the school was doing.

All kidding aside; I am not a good teacher at all. I just got lucky and got a good student. I'm sure I would have failed miserably, due entirely to my own inexperience and lack of skill teaching, if I tried to teach a lower performer, or worse yet, a classroom full of lower performers. And, I am not so arrogant to believe that my success would translate to teaching other kids or a classroom full of similar kids.

Yet, hardly a day goes by that I don't read a post or comment in the edusphere by an educator who claims either to know exactly how to teach low performing children or to know what external factors are preventing them from doing so (invariably lack of money, lack of parental support, and too big class sizes) based on their limited experience teaching bright middle class kids which is about the same as my exposure.


Anonymous said...

Here's my issue with the analogy. First of all, the matter of "parental support" concerns many teachers because of value systems. That is, they get fed one set of values at school (to value learning and education, one would hope) and then go home to a different set of conflicting values, in which education is seen as pointless, disconnected from any goals, and maybe even as weakness. THIS is where your scenario differs critically from the classroom scenario.

Also, consider how much less time you could have spent encouraging your son if you had 29 more of him to keep on top of. Many's the student who has TOLD me, "All I need is someone to keep on me." If the teacher has 75-150 other students to keep track of during the course of the day, they cannot even pressure each child to teach himself as thoroughly as some need. They cannot provide the encouragement that any student would need to learn.

Also, what I still don't understand is the showing off motivation. Personally, it worked wonders for me. The students that frustrate me most these days, however? They HAVE the ability, and on the rare occasions that they do work, they positively shine--and they are acknowledged by teacher and peers when they do. So WHY don't they keep doing it?

KDeRosa said...

Hi Laura.

I'd say very few parents purposely and actively undermine their own children's education. Even if they did not become educated themselves, they usually want their own kids to get a good education, even if they are unable to assist the child in getting one.

Then there are the overworked, foreign-language speaking, and simply not smart parents who are willing but unable to support.

Finally, we have the lazy and uncaring parents.

As long as the parent gets the child to school every day, I think they've done enough and the school can now take over and educate.

AS far as making sure that kids are learning during the instructional time, the curriulum I'm using is designed for classroom use and makes sure that all children are actively engaged during the teacher directed time and independent periods (there might even be a teacher's aide helping out). A skilled teacher, unlike me, would be able to handle a classroom situation of thirty kids. If there were many low performers in the class, then the teacher would have to be a well trained skilled teacher.

I'll post about this later this week.

Anonymous said...


that's fantastic!

Ken, what reading test did you give your son?

I need a reading test....

Anonymous said...

My friend Kris and I are going to give our kids the Connected Math Concepts 6th grade test at the end of the year as well as David Klein's 6th grade test.

Mike in Texas said...


I'm assuming that you've read to your child as an infant and a toddler. It is the single most impt thing a parent can do for their child's education, IMHO

KDeRosa said...

Mike, we did read to him and all th eother things you are suposed to do from day one. And, I agree it is important, at least for language and vocabulary skills.

But, we still had to teach him decoding skills explicitly from square one. And, he picked it up very fast and easily. Contrast this with many kids in his class who come from the same demographic subgroup who were also read to, but who are not picking up reading as easily because our school is not using a very good reading curriculum. I hear many complaints from parents already.

KDeRosa said...

Ken, what reading test did you give your son?

I've ben using the Reading Mastery tests that are given every 5 lessons to make sure kids are proceeding according to projections. At later grades, the testing is reduced. I have all the books except for level VI whihc is the level you need. I've been looking on ebay without success yet.

Mike in Texas said...


Language, vocabulary skills and reading all go hand in hand. Your child is reading so well b/c you took the time to read to him as a child, and he's been blessed with no vision problems, not b/c of the curriculum you used.

Don't sell yourself short.