The more I visit schools and read education bulletins, the more I feel like Alice in Wonderland. Nothing is as it seems, and the simplest things have become so complicated. Every kid needs $10 worth of manipulatives to add 6+8, and a lesson on one of our 26 letters either looks like advanced linguistics or is not done at all.

I always thought that the art of teaching was to make complex material simple enough for students to understand.

I recently flashed back to Ms. Oliva, my junior high school French teacher, who, without the use of technology, enabled us to confront our new  language. She did this by speaking very little English and having a test every Friday. She told us exactly what would be on the test: the exact vocabulary; the words and tenses to be conjugated; the passage to be dictated. We thought she was an idiot for doing so, but we hung onto her every word, did our French homework first and memorized the dictée down to the last circonflexe. We aced those Friday tests, the citywide test, and, using Ms. Oliva’s practice techniques, our high school tests and the  Regents exam.

I liked French so much that I majored in it and briefly thought I might want to be a French teacher. That notion lasted through my observation semester, when, every week, I would visit a different “good” school to see a different “good” teacher attempt to teach French. What I saw every week was a teacher explaining in English one or more of the rules of French grammar to a few students at the front of the class. The savvier students would ask questions to delay any actual engagement with the French language. The rest of the students were doing their math* homework. At the end of each class, a nearby homework doer would ask me why I would even think of becoming a French teacher.

At my old high school, the French teacher bemoaned her students’ lack of preparation, with one exception. Ms. Oliva’s former students seemed to know what they were doing.

We have all had a Ms. Oliva, a teacher who, by making instruction  comprehensible and predictable, was able to turn that scary mountain of French or calculus into a series of little molehills that we could leap over.  Why are we doing the reverse these days?

*Math in those days involved the manipulation of numbers to get the correct answer, not the writing of essays to justify the wrong ones. It was an easy subject to do discreetly in French class.


In the interest of basic instruction, we are again offering SPIRE and Sounds Sensible workshops in August. I suggest you sign up right away. They fill up immediately.

For a more intense plunge into the Orton-Gillingham approach, try Institute for Multi-Sensory Education in July or August or Max Scholar in June or August.

It is cruel and unusual to ask students to assign symbols to language they do not have. To that end, we are again offering Tell Me about It: Oral Language Development through Phonological Awareness, Visual Literacy and Storytelling, at the National Museum of the American Indian, and Teaching Vocabulary All Day Every Day at Everyone Reading in July.  Both have been approved by the NYCDOE for one P Credit towards a salary differential.

Don’t forget those rising fourth graders, born in 2010, who, despite four long years of schooling, still can’t read well.

For them we have  Catching Up and Getting Ahead

Catching Up and Getting Ahead will again take place at the  Museum of the City of New York, from July 8 through July 26, 2019, Monday through Friday, from 12:30 to 3:30 pm. There will be a pre-testing/grouping day on June 27th.   Each afternoon combines 90 minutes of explicit small group tutoring in phonics and other foundational skills and 90 minutes of hands-on museum education activities explicitly related to New York City history and geography.  The premise of the program is that students will catch up in reading and get ahead in the fourth grade social studies curriculum for September.

Participants must be rising fourth graders, born in 2010, who are still struggling with basic reading skills.  CATCHING UP AND GETTING AHEAD IS FREE, BUT WE PROVIDE NO TRANSPORTATION OR REFRESHMENTS.  The instruction is intense and produces excellent results.  Good attendance is paramount.  Students who are late and/or absent will be dismissed from the program.

The first step is filling out the attached application and returning it to Laura Guerrero, She will set up a brief screening appointment to see if your child will benefit from the program.

All Everyone Reading events are approved for
New York State Education Department CTLE
(Continuing Teacher and Leader Education) hours.

Except for Max Scholar, all registrations are done through our  website or the Registration button below. Information on Max Scholar is attached.

PS: Decoding Dyslexia, a national grassroots movement to raise awareness and provide support to parents, will have an open meeting to discuss effective ways of teaching reading and provide a list of resources.

The meeting will take place May 30, 2019 at 7:00 pm at the Sterling School, 134 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn (LICH Medical Arts Building)      RSVP to Mary Beth Crosby Carroll:

Comments are closed.