A Nightmare: Unprepared for Teaching
Sandra Priest Rose, Reading Consultant, Reading Reform Foundation of New York
I had a nightmare in which I faced a class of high-school students to whom I was supposed to teach Spanish. I do not speak nor understand Spanish, nor was I trained to teach the beautiful language of Cervantes.
This is the same nightmare that America’s elementary school teachers face every day of their lives. They are not trained to teach reading, writing, spelling, or comprehension of written material. They read about teaching methods, but they are not taught HOW to teach in either their undergraduate or graduate education.
They have not been shown the two dozen or so rules of English spelling that govern most of the language. They have not been shown how to teach handwriting nor composition.
A study done by the National Council on Teacher Quality in 2006 concluded that out of 72 schools of education throughout the country, only 11 included the teaching of the sounds of the language (phonics) in its curriculum. Only 15% taught all the components of the science of reading. This was a sample of 1271 higher-education institutions that house elementary education programs. Subsequent studies were done in 2013 and 2014.
Vast research from the 1930s on has proven the efficacy of the systematic teaching of phonics approaches to the language. We have also known since that time, based on the work of the neurologist Dr. Samuel T. Orton, that using the multisensory techniques of seeing, saying and writing everything helps learning. One such course in the teaching of reading, writing, spelling and comprehension is offered by the School of Education at Manhattanville College, in Purchase, NY.
In addition, a strong curriculum from first grade on, of myths, fairy tales, legends, history, science, math and the arts provides the wide knowledge base so necessary for comprehension and thinking. This rich foundation in the early grades prepares all students well for junior high and senior high. Teachers need this broad education, too.
Teachers desperately want to teach well. We should give them all the tools they need by way of their own education. No teacher should have to face a class in the nightmarish situation of being ill-prepared and ill-trained. #
Sandy Priest Rose is the founder of the venerable Reading Reform Foundation.