On Teaching and TutoringThey tell you that all children are different. And they're right. I'm spending mornings this summer as I do every summer, tutoring children in reading. I teach reading phonetically. As it should be taught. There are objective standards that have to be met by each student. Unlike the crap that we are supposed to teach in school, I can explain to a parent exactly where a student is, what they've learned, what they need to learn, and what kind of difficulties they are having if they are having difficulties. And the kids are privy to this knowledge too. They know what they need to do. There is no deciphering of nebulous subjective semi-standards. Nobody in the public school system in this country wants to hear that. That's OK. They will continue to create my clientele.
Dealing with children one on one, it becomes apparent early on, how well each student will be able to pick up on what I'm teaching. It has to do with different factors. How good is their recall? Some students start off having a tough time remembering all four sounds of the first phonogram. I've spent upwards of fifteen minutes with some students repeating those four sounds with them until they can repeat them on their own. Then they can begin writing and repeating. The good news is, even with these slow starters, once they've had enough practice, their memory improves. It gets - not necessarily easy, but it does get easier.
How hard are the students willing to work? Some will do everything I ask without complaint. Others begin whining and moaning as soon as they walk in the door and don't stop until they walk out. Some work for a while and then want to give up. Almost all students complain that their hand hurts the first few sessions. We do a lot of writing.
Are the parents willing to bring their child to my house on time for every session? No explanation needed.
Can the parents afford to bring their child until they've learned what they need to learn? I don't live in what you would call a wealthy area. My school is in an area that's even less wealthy, and that's where most of my tutoring students come from. Depending on how quickly their child learns though, it could end up costing a lot of money. On the other hand, some who cry poverty drive some pretty expensive cars. Some smoke. Almost all have cable TV or satellite TV, video game systems, and other things that I would consider nonessential when your child needs to learn how to read. I do occasionally offer discounts and on a few rare occasions, I have taught for free. But that is strictly at my discretion.
Some students have problems with reversals. Because I was trained how to do it (when I learned to teach Riggs ) I can fix those reversals. Sometimes that takes a few minutes. Sometimes it takes weeks or months of monitoring and frustration, but it does get fixed. In the public schools teachers are trained to refer that problem to the special education department, thereby insuring that it remains a lifelong disability.
Some students show such remarkable improvement just from learning the phonograms, they don't stick around very long.
One of the students I'm teaching now, breezed through the phonograms, learning the first 55 of them in a week and a half. He's got phenomenal recall. He's going into sixth grade, and he's reading on about a second grade level. As bright as he is, I've had to let him know that the third grade animal book he was reading was below him and he needs to stick his nose into some chapter books. Like so many kids today, he's bright but lazy. And he's past the age where he wants desperately to read. I think his father will give him the kick in the pants that he needs to move him along.
Another student is a foster child going into third grade. Think of him as being rescued. He's got difficulty speaking clearly. He doesn't use all of the sounds because he has difficulty pronouncing all of them. This caused him to have a really tough time with some of the phonograms. Sometimes he got angry at me, but he kept on working. He wants to read. We are now learning spelling and I think there may be some hearing issues too. He sounds out his words like he's supposed to, but then can't put the sounds together. For me, this is something new. I've been having to figure out how to make this work for him. Since in tutoring it's much easier to tailor each lesson to the individual, I was able to slow him down and we are taking extra time to address problem areas. He's going on vacation next week and that worries me. I don't know how much catching up we'll have to do when he returns.
I can do some individualizing in the classroom, but it takes a lot more effort. I also use my bright students to reteach slower students. It's always a tremendous amount of work. And sometimes my patience does wear thin. Over the years I've had to learn to be really patient. After all, that student who isn't getting it is as frustrated as I am. He wants to do well and is operating to the best of his abilities. I have to remember that and save the ranting for after the lesson is over and I am someplace alone.
All in all, I've learned more about teaching and how to teach since I've started teaching the Riggs method than I ever could have learned otherwise. The currently accepted reading and phonics "experts" like Patricia Cunningham and Lucy Calkins don't even know as much as some of the second and third graders that I've taught about the English language.