EDC 21 Critical Incident Reflection Paper
Shirley Pinero, Director of Youth Services
1075 Oceanview Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11235
(718) 646-1444 ext. 335
Helping a child learn to read.
While volunteering at the afterschool center, I was asked to help a child complete his/her homework. The first day I was there, I helped a six year old girl named Jenny*. One of the staff members asked the children “Who needs a lot of help with their homework?” Jenny was one of two students who raised her hand. Another student named Mary* said “Jenny always needs help!” and laughed. This was the same student who on a different occasion on the same day, told Jenny she needed to stay away from her because Mary “hated” Jenny.
When I came to her, she had her books open to her math journal. I asked what she needed help with and her response was “I can’t read the question.” My first reaction was to check for glasses and I asked, “You can’t see the question?” and she told me “No, I don’t know how to read it.” Her math problems consisted of two to three sentences of small words (almost all of less than 6 letters each). I thought of one of the ways I learned how to read and was almost positive it would work with Jenny. I had her sound out each word until she was ready to read at least half of the sentence without my help. After reading the math problem and helping her understand what she needed to do to figure out her answer, I noticed she also had trouble counting. She was supposed to be adding numbers from one through nine. I taught her to use her fingers until she got the hang of it. It would take her a while to get the answer, but she answered correctly.
When she was a bit more comfortable with me, she showed me her school desk which was in the same room as her after school group. She sits alone, while there are four-six desk-tables.
Gathering objective data from the concrete experience.
What did I observe in this experience?
All the children in the group are the same age- six years old. The majority of the other children were working on their homework alone. The staff let them know that they would need to raise their hand should they need help.
Jenny was quiet with me. She only spoke if I asked her a question. She had trouble reading words with three or more letters. She also had trouble answering the exercises. She would skip numbers while counting and go on as if she had not made a mistake.
Jenny moved around many times before I had to call her attention to her homework. She sat up and walked over to speak to other students and sharpen her pencil many times. It took Jenny a longer time to finish her homework than the other children. She was not able to participate in the following activity.
What did I observe about my behavior and actions (what did I do?) and those of others (who were the others and what did they do?)?
On my instinct to help others, I shared with Jenny a simple method of teaching herself how to read. I believe it is one of the most common ways to learn. I wanted her to know I was there to help and not make fun. One of the staff there told me I was going to be there a long time if I really intended on teaching her how to read, but I was okay with that. I knew I was teaching Jenny something she would need for the rest of her life.
How does this experience touch upon my own values?
It bothered me to find out Jenny-a six year old first grader- does not know how to read. I believe learning should begin at home and not waited to begin at school. Letters and sounds letters make should be something should all know by the age of five. By the time children reach the first grade, they should be able to at least read a level A book. As for her math, she should’ve learned to count way before she was sent to the first grade. If she was not ready to be in the first grade, why put her there?
How does it relate to my personal history?
I remember reading books at the beginning of my first grade years. As a child I loved reading and STILL do as an adult. I would always read whether it was required or not. It’s just like going to another world and exploring.
Also my daughter of seven years old is at a reading level well past what is appropriate for her age. In the first grade she was reading chapter books and responding to them properly. I made sure that I read to her almost every night and she was able to tell me her favorite part of the story or about the character. When she learned to read, we started taking monthly trips to the library to borrow books. She picks out her own books; I never make her choose something she sees as boring.
I can understand the curriculum is being pushed down a lot, I mean my daughter is adding 3 digit numbers in the beginning of first grade. But it wouldn’t be pushed down if the department wasn’t sure the children were capable of succeeding.
Identifying relevant knowledge
How does this experience contradict or challenge my academic knowledge?
According to what I’ve learned in school and my own experiences, at her age, Jenny should already be between a level D and I. Still, she isn’t ready to read a level A book. She should have the skill to read on her own.
Jenny should be ready to add numbers one through nine but she does not. Jenny shows little to no interest in school work and it is most likely because she has such difficulty understanding the work.
How does my academic knowledge help me to organize, understand, make sense of or develop hypothesis about this experience?
I have used observation, questioning language, and my own experiences as resources to make sense of what I observed and I believe Jenny should be tutored by a professional. If Jenny has motivation and someone to depend on, I know she can learn and catch up with the other children in her age group. Her behavior also leads me to believe she should be evaluated by the department of special education to determine if she has a disability.
Examining and reconciling dissonance
What if anything, do I feel uncomfortable about in this situation?
The situation is not one to be proud of. Despite her age, Jenny should need little to no help with her homework. She should be able to comprehend and go through her homework swiftly. Had she been reading and practicing numbers and counting with a parent or guardian from a younger age, she’d be more advanced in reading, writing and math.
What conflicting thought and feelings do I have about this experience?
As a mother and aspiring teacher, I feel very upset and annoyed that this child isn’t getting the help she needs. Instead of isolating her from the other children, the adults around her should enforce friendliness. Children also learn from other children. She should be getting all the help she needs. She lacks one of the most necessary skills a person can own. Jenny will be using reading for the rest of her life and it is crucial that she learns how to at a young age.
What did I learn about myself? About others? About the world around me?
Although I am very upset at the environment around Jenny, I learned that her parents are hardly ever home and not well educated. She has very little help from home so school is her only chance to learn.
I learned that not everyone has the same opportunities as the other and that those who do should take well advantage of the situation.
As a person, it is in my nature to help others and feed them knowledge I know appropriate for that person.
What skills did I acquire?
I am a very impatient person, but when I dealt with Jenny and teaching her how to read, I surprised even myself with this new found patience. Every time she pronounced a word properly, I would tell her she was doing a good job and that was motivation enough to keep going. That was my satisfaction. Children are very fragile and need to be dealt with extreme caution. Even the smallest improper sentence can wipe out all hope of learning.
Developing a plan
Based on what I have learned, how might I modify my own approach, methods or behavior when I encounter a similar experience in the future?
I realized that there will always be that child that needs an extra push or a little more help than others. I just have to make sure that I am ready, willing and capable to help. I have to assure myself that I will not let this child down and that he/she will learn from me all that I can teach them.
What alternative directions might I take as I proceed in my work?
As a teacher, the child’s parents will be spoken to about the use of a tutor and/or morning programs that help children get back on track with school work. All the help the child can get and is necessary for a successful school year. The more I can help, I will. I will always include the “sound it out” method as I find this one to be most effective as long as the child knows the sound each letter makes.