Education Opinion

Learning to Read and Think

By Jim Randels — June 29, 2008 4 min read
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A key feature of SAC work is what students learn as they are in our classes and as they are training to work as staff members. Today’s entries by Naila Campbell, McMain 2008 graduate and emerging staff member, and Alexandra Lear, 2007 McMain graduate and current SAC staff member, illustrate this process. Both essays were written in the three-week workshop for New Orleans Public School teachers, SAC staff, and rising SAC interns that we just completed.

This Summer I Learned To Read
Naila Campbell

I was always a good reader. Once my teachers taught me the art of sounding out a word, I was set. In my reading class, I was always a level or two above the majority of my class. My mama called me “speedy Gonzales” when I would read in front of her. I could read just about anything anybody put in front of me.

This past school year I found out that I could barely read at all. My English IV teacher, Mr. Randels, would give us an average of five or six readings a week. On average, I was able to read maybe one every two weeks. Now, I was able to say the words that were on the paper fairly easily. But this year, I learned that reading was not just about being able to say the words. It was also about being able to understand those words also.

Last summer, I learned what Reciprocal teaching was but this summer I learned the process. I learned to question what I didn’t know. I’ve been given tools to figure out the unknown for myself. I don’t necessarily have to run to someone or something else when I can’t understand. For the past few weeks, I have been learning to read.

In SAC I Learned to Think
Alexandra Lear

As I stare at this blank page, I wonder what else I could be doing today. Thinking, thinking, thinking. . . I could be paying a parking ticket issued by the city of “we want your money” or scheduling classes for the fall semester at the college of “we want you money,” but instead I think I will just sit here and write about how it is a pleasure to be in a room with people who are learning how to better themselves and others through grouping exercises at the high school I graduated from for free.

As I look around the room for a topic to write about I see teachers and students mixed together gathered in sort of a circular seating arrangement writing. Everyone is equally taking part in the process, and I think it is actually putting a smile on my face. Yep, I feel my facial muscles moving in a positive direction. My face has been doing this since I started SAC (Students at the Center) and the summer internship, because before I never knew this type of environment existed.

I was 17 when I first found my voice. I was in a SAC classroom, the melting pot for students who lost their voice under a rock called authority and power of other teachers. Little did I know that these teachers, Kalamu and Jim, were going to be different.

You see I am lazy, so I started off the year as usual: I did the first assignment to see what my new teachers Jim and Kalamu would do to my peers who did not do the assignment. But I quickly found out that it is about what you do and not about what you do not do. If you do not do the work you get an F, but if you fall behind with the papers good luck plus an extra good luck because of the revisions. It was simple. As a lazy person I caught on quick, a little too quick. Since I had written my paper and read the story, I raised my hand, thinking I was going to be discussing the reading materials. But instead I was asked to read my work. My mouth dropped, and my eyes got big. What did I get myself into? This lazy person just got bamboozled; I told them my story was personal and Kalamu asked, “So, what’s personal about it?” I was speechless, so I just looked away from him and at my paper and started reading my personal essay. Then another unexpected wrong turn occurred when I finished reading. “Pick two people to comment,” was all I heard, and I looked up and everybody looked away like we were all negative sides of a magnet. Then I started talking to myself “why I gotta pick two people, not gonna do it, nope I refuse” but all that came out as Audie and Kandyce. It was funny to me but not to them. For some reason I do not think they listened to my story. They both gave a little shrug and said, “I liked it.” Then that oh so popular question came out of Kalamu’s mouth “what did you like about it”? Pause

Those words challenged us to think. Some people accepted this new form of teaching and wanted to learn about what else they could do and some did not. But I was one, like many others, who wanted to experience more that SAC had to offer. We get to travel, attend and speak at conferences, and I learned most of my New Orleans history from being a part of SAC. I love this program. Everybody is treated equally. It is not forced, and everybody interacts with good vibes. SAC is the future, if you ask me.

The opinions expressed in Student Stories: A New Orleans Classroom Chronicle are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.