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-The Five Spot

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

dysfunctional tales, vol. i

So a cousin of mine has 4 kids and she’s not 30, nor did she commence having children in her 20s. Over the weekend, I spent some time with 2 of her kids (both girls). So the littlest one was eager to tell me she had books – the initial indicator that the girl is smart and is willing to learn, so I told her to show me. The child is 5 and is in kindergarten – remember this tidbit as the story evolves…

She gets the book and I point to each word in the title, however she’s creating her own title. Initially, I thought it was being done in jest, but as we turned the pages to the book she couldn’t logically sound out words. So, then I blurt out “Can you read?” And she says "yeah" a pet peeve of mine – it’s YES. So, I point to the word ‘the’ – and her response is a singular letter ‘a’ or ‘i’ – clearly my ass is lost. So, I close the book and ask do you know your alphabet. She retorts, “A, B, C, D, EFG, H, I, JK, LMP… just because she half-ass knows the song doesn’t mean she knows her alphabet. So, now I ask the easiest question of them all – spell your name… A.. y – enough, she doesn’t know how to spell her name.

Time for plan B.

"Get me a sheet of paper, I’m going to write the alphabet." Interestingly enough, she brought me writing tablet paper and not regular college ruled paper—that was a second indicator that the girl is smart and nobody is working with her. So, I write her the alphabet, capital and lowercase letters adjacent to each other and on the final line I write her first and last name. After the letters and her name were written, I began to quiz her on phonics. "What begins with A – name me a fruit, what begins with B — name a color…" This is the process I follow until we hit all 26 letters. So, I inform her that the next time I see her she needs to know how to spell her first name.

Now did the adults really think just because the proper tools were present for thriving learning environment, that osomosis would take place and ooze through the girl's brain and BAM -- she's a reader?

In this household on this given Sunday was the mother, grandmother, and grandfather. Mom is upstairs watching “Two Can Play that Game”, Pa Pa is yapping on the phone, and grandma is watching t.v. and braiding her great neice’s hair. The grandmother was present for my mini-school session. And she claims, "I had no idea all this summer the littlest one couldn’t spell her name." Lord forgive me, but had you struck her ass Bellini would have understood right then and there.

You have a child willing and eager to learn and no adult can put their fucking life on mute and dote on the child.

Ironically enough, I asked the Mother during the beginning of the school year how the 5 year old was adjusting to school and she replied “just fine”. Clearly “just fine” means two different things. I had the impression that she was on point as a 5 year old: could read, or was an emergent reader, identify letters of the alphabet, understood the phonetics of sounds, etc. cue Deneice Williams “Silly of me…” Be’cuz that’s what 'just fine' meant to me.

Unfortunately, the parents seem indifferent to the window of opportunity children have; where there could never be endless of hours of learning and their engagement is full throttle, it will be sad if this little girls aptitude for learning diminishes in the same year she officially started grammar school. And I pity the schoolteacher who has to teach this girl, but can not count on the parents to do their part. And folks holler and shout about the state of public schools, and yet the assumption is parents are doing their part, when clearly that is not the case.

So, I leave with you an op-ed piece from William Raspberry – a former Washington Post columnist during the 90’s who wrote provocative opinions about the state of black America.
Enjoy this kick-ass piece featured in the Post yesterday.




Anonymous said...

Love this post and the article...

We've gone from a society of selflessness to selfishness. Where community no longer measure up to self.

Ive watched so many bright children be victims of their own surrounding. Mom always looks great and put together and the kid come in in the middle of winter in t shirts and blue jean shorts.

But Obama has renewed that hope we say not only the black community to make this happen but a national community. Just as he was able to win votes one at a time for change, we as Black people have to be willing to do the same. One child, family, community at a time!

Mudslide said...

Well, Elmo and Dora cant do it all. It's obvious that each generation is becoming "dumber". Im sure many fingers can be pointed as to who is to blame, but i'd have to say the parents ultimately have the responsiblity. Educating your kids is right up there with clothing and feeding them.

Bellini said...

@ ms. cali brown: thanks. you know times have changed, but i really don't understand why -- and the irony with my cousin is that how could you forget or dismiss how you were raised to be inquisitive, educated-- it's frustrating and discouraging all at the same time. And the priorities are beyond screwed up.

@ mudslide: lmao at the cartoon references! why do black parents think they can shirk their responsibility -- i don't get that at all--and i agree parents are to blame. Parents can not begin to point the finger until they exhausted their means within self.

@ all: we've got to pray for this next generation and ourselves. Amen!

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

man u have a career in comedy ahead of u its funny, making her own titles and all - but sad too

Tela said...

Thank you for this post. Now I KNOW teaching my 3 year old how to read isn't "pusing her too much" as my family likes to put it. If I don't push her who will? It's my responsibility to educate her, not the school, church or Dora. Thank you for writing about this. I feel so much better and justified.

Bellini said...

@tela: you're welcome; on a sidenote -- i once had an ecounter at my hair salon with a foster mother who was raising a 5 year old (and clearly foster mom could have been grandma) and she shared the story how the child's mother was young & wildin' out (was more into the girl looking cute than being hooked on phonics) and how as a parent all her kids could read by 3 and it was normal! So i write all this to say push your baby -- be'cuz as a parent you'll be able to assess what your child can and can't muster academically as they get older (it will be your innate way to determine if the teachers/school is a right fit for your child and if they value, respect their aptitude. so go on and educate that child and watch your pride & joy thrive and excel. Sometimes you got to let family know you got this and do the right thang!

Sista GP said...

I'm late, but I love this post.
I've had the opposite with my son's schooling.
In pre-school, he thought his name was Benjamin IsSmart, because that was all heard from his teachers. I corrected that immediately. We would practice his full name on a regular basis.
In Pre-K and Kindergarten (public school), he was labeled as a troubled kid. They had him "tested" and unexpectantly they recommened him for the Gifted Program.
Enrolled him into a private school, they tried to convince me to put him on drugs. I went through the process for ADHD testing. Results: Academics High, Attention Low, no ADHD
Finally in Second Grade he is being challenged enough to keep his active mind busy.
I will continue to work with him, not depending on educational professionals. I wish more parents would do the same.

Bellini said...

preach sista GP! great points.