First Things First.
Our schoolís physical layout was standard for the time:
Front office building, separate two room Kindergarten
unit, cafeteria, primary playground, upper grade
playground, storage areas in each complex, a quad in the
center, two teaching complexes; eight classrooms each,
one for the primary grades one Ėthree, the other grades
four to six. Between each four classrooms was a work,
storage area. The rooms were connected by doors to and
from each other.
It was Tim, our wonderful custodian who was the champion
in our first efforts to establish what we knew as an
environment more suitable for our special primary
children. They needed their own space, their own table.
Not to be invaded by friend or foe. He emptied out the
classroom of single tablet type desks. He scrounged
every supply room, every used storage area. He even
called his cohorts at other schools. He found us
thirty-two two space tables. Teachers in all the grade
levels donated their unused tables. He scrubbed the
tables, polished the floors in the empty classroom. He
placed the tables in long rows of six tables each, one
chair for each table, with two tables fitted in the back
for use as the needs demanded. Then he installed
chalkboards that began three feet from the floor to six
feet high along one entire wall.
He even found chalk and eraser holders that spanned
their entire lengths. Where he got the materials he
didnít say, we didnít ask. He was having a grand time.
We were thrilled. Then in came four spanking new trash
baskets, contrary to the one per classroom allowed.
Next he got together with the reading specialist,
Dorothy, and removed most of the furniture, materials
from the area that would be her remedial reading center.
She placed her reading machines, sight, sound, flash
cards in their appropriate places, designed her own
personal area for direct teaching.
We asked the primary teaching staff for any and all of
the outdated primary books they could find. Tim came
with carts of discarded outdated books, from the storage
areas throughout the school. We worked as a team sorting
them by reading levels and placing them on the shelves
that were on the windowed side of the room.
Our physical layout was complete. Any alternations would
come as we needed.
We Meant Business: Not
I must tell you: I never, not even in my wildest dreams
thought that I would be teaching second grade; and
remedial at that. I was trained to teach at the
secondary level. I also had an Elementary credential.
After all the years at the university I had amassed
enough credits to apply for five credentials: secondary,
elementary, supervisory, administrative,
counselor/educational psychologist. My Masterís Degree
was in administration. I was in top form when I began to
teach at a very prestigious high school then a six year
school. Grade levels 7 Ė 12. I loved every challenge;
every subject that I taught was terrific. I enjoyed the
diversity. I began my administrative career at this
school as a part-time girlís vice principal. Those were
the years of gender differentiation. Then I was
recruited by a school district to the north to be a
full-time administrator. I took the job with the
guarantee that I could return to my old position with a
39 month period. The school district did not appreciate
my stand on racial equality. I was forced to resign.
Then I found work as an OEO consultant. Offered a
position at the Catholic school K-8 in the poverty area
of this same district. The pay was also poverty but I
Then finally I was offered a position at a school
district in East Ventura County as a Child Welfare and
Attendance Counselor. This is the time I write about in
the David's story.
Youíve read Davidís and the teacherís story. No? Read it
now. Itís my introduction to the founding of a unique
remedial program: teaching non-achieving second graders.
Remedial? Yes. At second grade? Yes. Get them as soon as
possible. I wrote this story about David. It surprised
me. It just came. Then I wrote the rest of the story.
Originally, his voice comes before mine. My teacher
advised, reverse the order. So there it is in brief, the
program. David is one of over 150 that were in the
remedial second grade program. Now, I want to share with
you the particulars.
As portrayed in the teacherís section of David, you read
about this pirated program(thereís more to tell you
later) reserved for children seriously below grade level
in reading, which flowed over into writing (printing)
arithmetic skills, behavior, either placidness or
A teaching technique I knew would work. I didnít know of
any other way to teach. Howíd I know? From my own life
as a student and from teaching all grade levels except
Kindergarten. No flapping visual distraction like stuff
hanging from the walls and ceilings, no auditory
distractions, no holiday to holiday themes, strict
adherence to rules, absolute quiet, no disruptions,
daily routines, respect for one another. The teachers
were the adults; the adults were in charge. It was
stressed to the children their parent(s): learning is a
business, just like at McDonalds; that working, tending
to their business of learning; only this business is for
profit, their profit.
In exchange: guaranteed success. These children had
already experienced two years of failure, they knew it
too. We offered them an opportunity to be ďa somebodyĒ
who could listen, read, write, master basic math skills.
Be a winner. We had 123 days to undo and rebuild.
The program, the initial classroom environment: bare
Letís start with the classroom environment:
The Reading Lab Provided:
Our reading Specialist, Dorothy Kennedy had the
advantage. Her program was funded by the Distrct via the
Feds. She had all the equipment that she needed:
listening posts, visual and auditory reading machines.
computers, software, copy machine. video monitor and
camera, Television/VHS player, Tape recorders/ players/
phonograph, books of worksheets, shared with the
classroom teacher, and her no nonsense approach to
learning, the latter, at no cost.
She was an organizer. A no nonsense person. She set up
schedules for the thirty students that she would work
with on a daily basis.She assigned them their time.
Everyday the students came to her in groups of six. They
knew what to do, where to sit, what machine to work
with. She spent time with the students personally in a
groups of three. She meant business, they meant
The Classroom Provided:
This classroom teacher managed to free up some district
funding for an electric pencil sharpener. Can you
beleive that? A special one that could accommodate
various size pencils. (The classroom had the old
grind away type. Totally a waste of wood and time. It
was removed.) Some of the children had poorly
developed small muscle control which necessitated the
large diameter pencil. Further funds were allowed for
individual chalk boards (out of the federally funded
Reading Specialist budget. More about this later. And
chalk erasers, one for every student. A three hole paper
punch. Three large posters of the printed
alphabet posted on the walls above the chalkboards.
The Teacher Provided:
Books of work sheets scrounged from every teacher
Kintergarden, first grade. Large alphabet cards. Every
student had to began at the absolute beginning. The
recognition of the letters in the alphabet, upper
and lower case in and out of order; Once a skill was
mastered, then and only then would the next level begin.
Oral repetition daily for all to
mastery for all.
Thanks to the entire staff, primary reading books were
provided from discards from years back. Back meant, to
Dick and Jane. We cared not that they were politically
correct, the words were the same. Content was irrevelant.
Who cared. Content barely matched the life they were
living. It was the words, the recognition that counted.
This is a blasphemy for some but please not to worry.
Large flash cards with the Dolch sight words, beginning
with the Pre-primer list of 39. The next level Primer
with 52, First 40, Second 46. If we were on track 3rd
grade of 41.
Large flash cards of the basic math combinations. One
poor skill tumbled into another.
The Students Provided:
Each student had to have a three ring notebook,
dividers, a package of wide lined and no lined paper,
six #2 pencils with eracers, one large pink eraser, box
of 16 color crayons, one pair of primary scissors, a
school library card.
The Parents Provided:
Support! One hour an afternoon or evening reviewing all
work that was sent home, signing papers to be returned
The Joint Venture:
They couldn't read. The teachers knew. The parent (s)
knew. The children knew. For whatever the reasons:
readiness, lack of maturity, home distractions,
conflicts, poor nutrition, sight or hearing
deficiencies, and familial expectations. The reason was
of no matter. What to do, how to do it? It was the
ultimate dilemma for all.
The teachers, Kindergarten, first grade were following
their training, the curriculum, doing all that was
expected and more. Some of their students just couldnít
make the grade.
So many of the parent(s) sent their children to school
without knowing, having no inkling of their possible
contribution to the process. The school site was an
alien setting for many parents.
These children came to school; found that school time
was only passable through the fun and games that were
interspersed during their learning day. For some the
school experience was painful. Recess was no relief.
Their attendance was poor.
The first grade teachers tested, they had to make it
official, they already knew who couldn't read grade
A list was compiled, from the bottom up. 0.0 first. Can
you believe that after two years of school? It's true.
It's sad. Furthermore, we proposed that as soon
as students reached grade level by year and month they
would be transfered to a standard second grade classroom
and the next student would be transfered into our
program. The on-going testing was done by the Reading
Specialist. Her expertise enabled her to evaluate
continously, individually. No class testing which would
interrupt the flow of the program. Additionally,
students who couldn't achieve two years of reading
skills in a year of the program would be kept in the
program but promoted to third grade.
So, we selected our first 30 children, and before their
inclusion in this program, we called every parent met
personally with some, and followed up via a letter that
explained the design and thrust of the program. Their
approval and participation had to be mandatory. We were
greeted to a 100 % positive response. They all wanted
their children to recover the missing basic skills for
future success in school.