One of the great joys in the recent days of Mother Goose is the time she spends tutoring the little kids in a very grand elementary school in Chicago. (For reasons of security, I shall not share the name of the school. And, of course, I shall not reveal the names of the children in order to protect their innocence. And so far, I have not shared my true identity with them in an attempt to protect my own innocence.)
Mother Goose and her fine team of tutors is teaching the children to be better readers — quicker to sound out words, grasp their meanings and find some comprehension in the stories they read. It is a very fine challenge! A noble challenge! An exacting science! A truly wonderful career choice for a goose.
We begin each day by finding our mini-groups of students and taking attendance in the busy and noisy hallway of the school. There are hundreds of little kids in their sweet little uniforms milling around, chasing each other and laughing amongst themselves.
Those behaviors continue throughout most of the 75 minute afterschool session in which Mother Goose is attempting to teach those helpful phonics skills and vocabularial lessons. As far as comprehension goes, I am trying to comprehend how any teacher can spend six hours a day with these little squirrels!
After we gather our little flocks of squirrels around us, we head up the grand marble staircase to the second floor where we share classrooms and giggles and our after school snacks. When we reach the appropriate classroom, we take attendance again because sometimes the little learners disappear along the journey…
Mother Goose is Chief Tooter to six children, ranging in age from seven to eleven years old, two girls and four boys all of Hispanic heritage.
They call me Miss Natalie, and they are all very lovable, even when they are flicking paper balls at my beak. Sometimes they are naughty and don’t pay attention. Sometimes they get up from their chairs and go wandering around the room.
They tip over in their chairs. They lose their balance and crash to the floor for no good reason. Their milk cartons seem to tip over and spill haphazardly everyday.
Mother Goose looks beyond the behavior and sees their hearts. I realize that they might have problems at home.
They have all been classified as reading at Level B which roughly translates to second grade…
Most of my students are trying hard to learn to read better. Some of my students wish they were anywhere but in the presence of Mother Goose.
Just this past week, two of the charming young men were whispering conspiratorially together. Suddenly they both needed to go and get ice packs — one for sore incoming molars, one for a pain on the side of his sweet head. With her great heart of compassion, Mother Goose agreed that they should have ice, but they must return immediately to the classroom to begin their lesson.
Ten minutes passed, the boys returned with their ice packs clutched to their heads and jaws.
“Oh, Miss Natalie,” they sang out. “We really have to go to the bathroom now.”
“Ok, boys, but please come right back. It’s time to begin our lesson.” Mother Goose is EVER SO PATIENT with these children.
The boys bathroom is right next to the classroom of Mother Goose so she knows that this need to only take three minutes maximum. I begin to teach the four other children their phonics lesson.
I teach with great pomp and circumstance — I have a great dramatic flair for teaching phonics — I get completely caught up in the sounds of the consonant blends and vowel digraphs. I look up at the clock and realize that fifteen minutes have passed since my little fellas have left for the boys bathroom! Omigooseness! Where are the boys?
At just that moment, my other children glanced out the window at the next wing of the great school, and way up above us looking out of a window on the third floor they see the sweet faces of my two missing boys! Omigooseness! The music of children’s laughter rang out and all manner of chaos and riotous behavior broke out in the classroom as Mother Goose dashed out the door to round up the missing squirrels.
We had a VERY stern talk when they finally returned.
“Now we must try to pay attention, students, so that we can become better readers. Remember my motto: Readers are leaders.”
They rolled their eyes and smiled at me. I know they were secretly planning their next escapade.
My students love to predict what will happen next in the stories we read to each other. I love to predict what they will do when my back is turned.
It has taken me three weeks to reach a wise and stunning conclusion which I will share with you now:
Generally speaking, the children who are having trouble reading are the same children who are having behavior problems in the classroom.
They are wonderfully precious, and I love them. They will be better readers because Mother Goose will coax every bit of phonics and vocabulary and comprehension into their darling hearts.
So help me God…