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Who Taught Whom?

by Yvan October 6, 1987

"Teach your children well..." begins a popular song from my high school days, and indeed, it's customary for parents to teach their children. But my son actually taught me now to be a better teacher.

Nathan was an average two-year-old toddler, who delighted in having books read to him. He was naturally inquisitive. One day, he pointed at a particular letter and asked, "What's that?".

"That's an M," I carefully articulated.

"M," he repeated in his babyish voice.

A day or two later, he jumped up and screamed, "There's an M!" wildly gesturing at the television as a Fred Meyer commercial flashed on the screen.

His desire to know what all those peculiar symbols were called inspired me to make an alphabet chart and post it at his eye level. We played "What's That?" almost every day for about a half an hour. Before two months passed, he could recognize all twenty-six letters, both upper and lower-case.

When he was two years and four months old, Nathan proved dramatically that he could memorize whole words simply by seeing them over and over. My husband had taken him to the grocery store and seated him in the shopping cart. while the checker was ringing up the purchases, Nathan spelled aloud the name above the exit, "F-R-E-D M-E-Y-E-R, Fred Meyer!" he exclaimed triumphantly as he pointed at each letter.

Games and repetition were apparently very effective tools for teaching.

By using these tools, I continued to teach Nathan in an unhurried, casual manner. He learned that each letter could "speak", such as, A says "aaa". Then he learned to blend the sounds together into words. By his third birthday, he was able to sound out short words as well as read many by sight.

At the same time, he learned colors, numerals, counting, and shapes from the other charts I made. And they weren't just simple shapes; he learned to differentiate between a pentagon, hexagon, octagon, trapezoid, and parallelogram. Each new accomplushment was followed by joyous giggling and clapping of his plump little hands.

Occasionally, he would have a hard time remembering or understanding a new idea. At these times, I discovered the immportance of encouragement, patience, and my faith in him. Encouragement and patience helped get him through the difficult tasks without putting too much pressure on him. But most of all, when I believed in him and said, "You can do it!" he never failed to live up to my expectations.

Now my son is almost ten years old, but our adventures in learning are still very fresh for me. Because, as a Kindergarten teacher, I have many young minds under my charge and I must remember my lessons: to encourage the discouraged, be patient with the troublesome, and believe in my little students, especially when they don't believe in themselves.

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