My wife works as a registered nurse at a Spokane hospital. She has worked there for thirty years. However, she should have been a school teacher. She volunteers on her day off at a school sponsored by the Covenant Church in north Spokane where our eight-year-old grandson attends class. It is a small school, a bit old fashioned with a mix of new ideas. It seems to work well.
My wife and I are not members of the Covenant Church
Recently, a young boy enrolled in the Covenant School. He came from a school where he was in a remedial class, a “special education student”, if you know the code. My wife told me that the new boy was behind academically for his age but had been making good progress in catching up in this new school. The teacher and volunteers had been working with him because he was easily distracted and needed extra coaching to stay on his lesson tasks. My wife told the little boy that she was proud of him because he was progressing so fast.
The little boy responded as if offering a bit of shocking news, "I was stupid at my other school". My wife had to fight back the tears. She told the boy, "You're smart in this school." There are probably thousands of kids with that same self image. A damn sad thing. But maybe the little boy is recovering.
I wait for my wife to return from her day in the classroom. She always has stories about the little people at the school. And the big people, the senior high school age students. Covenant School is kind of a one-room-school-house, one great big room. The student's have partial dividers around their desks in order to limit distractions. These personal study areas are called their "offices". After directions are given, the students work on their individual lessons (paces) pretty much on their own. They are given permission to leave their "office" in order to receive help from the teachers and assistants like my wife, especially if the students are having trouble mastering the lessons. The students must pass a test on each lesson in order to move on to higher learning. The school operates on a slim budget with help from volunteers. But they work academic miracles. It is a pleasure to hear about the successes of children.
My daughter-in-law who has worked with special education kids in the public schools says that teaching these students isn't difficult, the hard part is giving them confidence and raising their self-esteem. Most are helped by a different way of seeing something. Many of them just need some one-on-one with an adult. Like every kid.
And that brings me to the point: Volunteers are needed to make this happen. I have family and friends who teach at public schools in Spokane. They are overloaded with too many students. One-on-one with their students is only a slightly realized dream for them.
Go volunteer at your child or grandchild's school if you have the time and ability. Free up a teacher to help a kid who needs it. If you are like me and are not suitable to instruct little people, then give money until it hurts. It's easier than trying to be smarter than a fifth grader (I’ve proved it). The public school teachers whom I know, all spend their own money on classroom supplies. That’s not right.
There must be some way to get money to the classroom teachers? Buy some flash cards. Buy a wall map. Spend some money on the kids, make it a personal gift to the teacher if the Administration doesn’t allow gifts to the class. Do it, if you can't volunteer.