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  • Writer's pictureegfriedman


By Estergold


“There’s never a second chance to make a first impression…. But we can do the first impression over, I think.

(FLASHBACK) “These are the vowel sounds. a e i o u. What are the vowel sounds?” her words said to me. I looked up at her soundlessly, my black hair curled at the ends both ways, and strait-laced brown eyes blank, only about what she was saying to me. I saw the frustration on her face, as she repeated the 5 vowels again, with no change in her approach. If I knew how to be frustrated, or knew it was allowed, would I have expressed it then? We were still sitting in the same chairs in the same type of way. But something had changed in the room. I felt low down from on top and too high from on bottom, like I was hanging helplessly. But what was wrong here? Who was causing this feeling of wackiness, she or I? At that point, I knew I was. But now I wonder. What does a, i, e, o, u have to do with that moment in time, of being in this tiny room with a dim light, books on chairs around me, and how I felt like I was on a different dimension from her. I wondered. I still wonder…. But that was my first impression of the 5 vowels, as she called them, or “5 things”.

When the chair is high and you are small, all you can do is hold on and NOT fall.

My quest in life is to redo that little girl’s heart-sinking experience with those “5 things”, that she may have the chance of redoing those 5 things for all time. This means making sure that other kids (the ones that enter into my domain) know why they are learning those 5 things, and then, of course, not seeing them as 5 things, but as unique entities that open up the doors of reading. Then, that girl will be able to redo her 5-year-old moment into something exceptionally positive. It shouldn’t feel wacky when learning how to read. Kids shouldn’t feel like they don’t know where they belong in that kind of way, in a dimension that is separate and can’t be seen by others. They may feel that everyone else has a place except them, whether in the classroom or out of the classroom. In a way, they may feel suspended in the “what am I missing” dimension. That is kind of where I left off. Up to this day, I still wonder what I am missing because is a feeling that doesn’t leave so easily.

Being someone that is NOT you can only last as long as PURIM

There are two types of readers, osmosis and non-osmosis ones (in simplest terms). Yes, it’s almost as simple as that. Sorry, first grade teachers for what I’m about to say! Reading is a natural extension of language for the “osmosis” kids. This means that these “osmosis” readers will figure out how to read when they are ready. The way that they get to that point may not be at all like the “teacher” way, but the end goal will be reached. Just so you know, spelling is the only facet of reading that kids actually need to be taught by teachers, even if they are osmosis readers. The non-osmosis readers usually have dyslexia, which is as simple (or complicated) as another word for “reading disability”. Let’s just get this straight initially now, that dyslexia does not mean seeing words backward. What does it mean? We’ll take that journey together. However, THE HINT is that I tell parents that I would pick dyslexia for my child, if they had to experience a challenge anyway. Many times, people in the throes of a challenge, who experience it firsthand, are more scared than anyone else. For me, the first words I tell parents is, “this is not scary,” before I even say the word, dyslexia. I say that because it’s true. In fact, it may be the best news a parent has ever gotten (as once in a while news needs to happen once in a while as a parent automatically).

Dyslexia is NOT about slowing down but about up AND down.

Reading is usually a fall back of language when the language system is even-keeled. That’s why many readers osmosis it. These are the kids whose skills in language don’t have any inconsistencies. Their IQ’s can range from very low to very high, but their actual levels are even keeled. That’s how they are the same. It is also what labels them as NOT having a disability. (Yes, that is the only type to whom I will give a label.) Usually these people’s language skills are not nearly as high as many kids with dyslexia. When there are inconsistencies in language, usually very high levels intermixed with specific inabilities to use phonemic chunks in specific ways, you are introduced to the non-osmosis type of reader. Welcome to this coveted world by some.

Now, as a quest to redo, I knew that If a kid is not an osmosis type of reader, there should still be an osmosis pattern to helping this child learn how to read. The osmosis pattern usually involves some type of balance that doesn’t require every ounce of energy available. If you think about it, who wants to exert that much energy to do a task. Saying it simply, we need to help the non-osmosis readers to achieve this balance of energy, of course personalized to them. This means taking the cog that’s doing too much work, and the one that’s doing too little work, and having them share equally. An osmosis reader does this naturally. However, we non- osmosis readers take things to the extreme and need to be taught how to balance both sides of the brain.

You need to keep plugging, as the teacher, until what you're doing together, feels like a favorite thing to your student.

To gain that natural osmosis, reading should not be a push and shove type of motion. Even in a better scenario, it’s not okay for me, as the guardian of the redo, to do any pushing and grating, so the child’s head hurts from the unnatural way she’s trying to be turned on.

The teacher I fear being, is when I want the kid to get it so badly, that I’m almost inside of them, and I’m creating the pressure of the learning mounting on their beings and mine, so they leave knowing it in some way, but not in a healthy way. Actually, in the first ten years of my career, trying to keep that okay feeling and positive energy and, as people like to call it, self-esteem intact within my innocent charge, had burnt me out. I would never be like that teacher, the one in the room with the girl who was me, and act like a machine. Rather, my goal is to be the very best version of what I could be at 12:26 pm(with child and teacher both on a full stomach) based on where the child and I are holding. Anything else is not okay when you’re dealing with children suspended in time, who are making memories that form their sense of self. I wanted to become better than I was then.

If I know I'm the smart one, everything I do will be smart.

In the past, when I knew I wasn’t at my best, I would do just that, and despised myself when I realized I was doing it. I would create a rhythm of the concept that had a beat inside me too, so that it was impossible for the child not to know it. So in the process of these moments, kids have taught me to ask why this is such a hard task for me or them. If I was doing the underlying fixing right, by balancing the weaknesses using the strengths, reading should come naturally as a byproduct. That’s what I call osmosis. We’re trying to create the byproduct of smoothly being able to continue to learn how to read. First, I needed to create that system that would have a novel osmosis pattern of learning that is based on reactions and responses, personalized but also with a global consistent framework. This would automatically ensure the absence of pushing and prodding information to where it needs to be.

If you keep trying things the same way,

the result won't change. It's like hitting a brick wall again and again.

(even if you pound your head a few times first)

I have come to a point where most of my interactions are now the kind that I can proudly hold up, and kindly use without fanfare, but with deliberated control, knowing that every kid who fits uniquely into his own massive mold of different complex working memory, sound, and naming profiles, will be okay. I don’t promise perfection. But more than being “okay”, I expect my students to come out infinitely more of a full person (as well as a reader), and not ever feeling the need to wonder what they are MISSING.


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