I was sharing with my colleagues about a former student who rehearsed for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” on a regular basis. He famously took an “I Believe I Can Fly” leap down a flight of stairs, spraining both ankles. It was our job to teach this aerodynamic wonder. You may find it shocking to learn that he did not achieve academic excellence under our tutelage; our professional development in the Cirque de Soleil writing instruction program proved insufficient. I take full responsibility. In an effort to expose him (and countless other youngsters who wander into the classroom year after year, with the ability to read the words “cat,” “frog,” and “ugly bitch ass”) to text that is beyond his decoding skills, I have been known to actually read higher level text. Aloud. *Gasp!*
Any teacher who has taught at-risk, below-level readers knows that this is as necessary as keeping Advil in your desk drawer, if you hope to convey information or interest kids in the wonders of reading. Not all the time, of course, but while we are learning to read, we have to ACTUALLY read, occasionally.
“Nay! You must give them wings! Let them struggle with the text! And do it in the next seven minutes, after which they shall write a composition that adheres to a seventeen-point rubric! Let them fly, oh lesser, misguided Peachy!”
Always one to obediently follow the wisdom of my superiors, I say unto the fledglings,”You shall read the book about Ellis Island! You shall respond to questions with your partner! The guys from Men In Black shall not come and use the flashy thing upon your brain four seconds after you have read three sentences!”
Time passes; a few days of it. I ask the question, “Why is Ellis Island important?”
For the first time all day, there is eerie silence in my classroom. Perhaps I should re-phrase. “What IS Ellis Island?” No fewer than five children venture into intellectual no-man’s land: “It’s an island.”
Score! Let’s break out Anna Karenina!
Weirdness Update—In subsequent years, my colleagues or I have wound up teaching siblings from the aforementioned family (Stair Leaping Boy’s), in a completely different school than when I had the pleasure, initially. Stair Leaper certainly wins the audition for the “Cuckoo’s Nest” musical revival, but the others have a timeshare at the Zippy Ha-Ha Land Resort also. . .I’ve said it before. It’s a small world, after all.