Reading, Inclusion and Big Picture Thinking

During last week’s Parent-Teacher Conference, Rachel’s English teacher mentioned that following their next reading project they would be discussing women’s rights.  Rachel has already read the piece. We pre-read and then watch a video or movie if available. As we were driving home, we were discussing the topic of women’s rights with Rachel. She’s studied a little about women’s rights in history so she immediately said that women’s rights was that “suffering” thing and women were able to vote.  Correct for the most part. What else?  “Women didn’t have the right to go to the bathroom.” She had confused her segregation studies with those of women’s rights so we discussed that a bit. Then she proclaimed, “And they didn’t have the right to cell phones!” We aren’t sure where this came from, but we were able to go on and have a discussion of other rights that women have been denied historically.  It is good groundwork for the upcoming, sure to be educational, discussion of how women’s rights have evolved and how they still have a long way to go.

Reading has always been a priority at our house. Both Jonathan and I read a lot. We enjoy reading. Rachel is a good reader. Our goals for Rachel don’t necessarily include her scoring high on reading comprehension tests. We are more interested in her be able to grasp big picture concepts and have a lifelong love of reading. If the situation arises, we want her to be able to discuss books and topics on a casual basis in social settings.  One of her former teachers sent me an email a few years ago and said this:

“I’m not sure that I ever mentioned this to you, but I still remember a meeting once where we were discussing what would be best for Rachel in terms of her reading instruction. I can’t even remember if it was during 5th or 6th grade, but I remember what was said. I wanted to make sure that I was teaching the 5th or 6th grade indicators that Rachel needed to know for her state assessment, and either you or Jonathan said that you realized that testing had to be important to the school, but you two were more concerned about teaching Rachel to be a lifelong reader that enjoyed books. What you said has stuck with me for a long time, and I’ve tried to shift my classroom to be more focused on skills like that so that my students will hopefully be lifelong readers and writers beyond their school years. So thank you to you, Jonathan, and Rachel for that! :)”

We’ve always believed that those skills would serve Rachel better than scoring high on some artificial test.  Consider this story.  They do Socratic seminars in English. They just finished Huck Finn, and we were helping her prepare for the Socratic seminar. We had questions to review and help Rachel organize her thoughts and come up with her talking points. One of the questions was about how Huck and Jim were alike and different. She said one way they were different was that Jim was black and people were not very nice to black people then. She said it is was just like that Rosa Parks lady. We agreed with her analysis. We had just seen Hidden Figures. Rachel went on to point out that it reminded her of Hidden Figures. Good enough for me. She gets the “big picture,” and she enjoyed the book. And the teacher said the other students told Rachel they thought that was a good comparison that they had not considered.

Inclusion works in the most subtle and not so subtle ways.

And for no reason except that it is soooo cute, it was Twin Day at school.  Rachel and one of her teachers, who is also her case manager, friend, mentor and volleyball coach, decided to be twins.  Her teacher is pregnant so Rachel folded a sweater and put under her shirt so she would have a belly.  Love this. They do kind of look-alike, don’t  you think?




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