"While we are reading, we are all Don Quixote." ~ Mason Cooley

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I Remember....

It remains a mystery to me how a long forgotten memory will suddenly surface, seemingly out of the ethers.  This morning, on waking and thinking 'book club today', a sudden image caught me a bit offguard.  A little girl, a 1st grader, tearing down the school hallway, primer in hand, a toothy grin on her face, "I can read!  I can read!"

This memory - 35 years old now, the situation - my first principalship in a primary school of 350 youngsters, K-3rd grade.  From families of what today we refer to as the working poor.  A school staffed by teachers who, for the most part, loved teaching and loved their students. Teachers who informed me at my first staff meeting that they hoped, no, expected that I would support what they saw as the primary mission of the school.  Not only to teach these youngsters to read, but to love to read.

I did.  And they, for the most part, succeeded in their mission. I did my best to support them.  I would drop in to observe reading lessons, to listen to youngsters read or to read to them.  Do whatever I could to send the message that their principal as well as their teacher thought reading was important.

Eventually, it became a regular practice for youngsters to be sent to me to share their progress.  But this particular morning, this particular girl - not merely progress but a major breakthrough!  She had come to the school that September, a first grader who could not read a single word.  Who seemed overwhelmed by the very possibility, often frustrated to the point of tears by the challenge of connecting symbol to sound.  What the key was that opened the door to the wonders of reading for her I can't recall.  But I remember who turned it - one dedicated, perseverant, patient, caring teacher. I remember that little girl's unbounded joy as she flew into my arms and started to read her little book.  I tear up today as I type this.  I remember it like it was yesterday.

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