Musings of a Heavily Armed Soccer Mom
Musings of a Heavily Armed Soccer Mom is a series of articles with a positive slant. Conservatives are faced with enough negativity, on a day to day basis, that, hopefully, some good news, and some success stories, will be appreciated.
When my sons were approximately seven and eight years old, I received a call from their school. I was told that I needed to come in for a parent-teacher conference, at my earliest convenience which, they suggested, should be at 4:00 PM the following day. Yes, in their infinite wisdom, they somehow knew what would be convenient for me. The only other information I was given was that I shouldn’t bring either of the boys to the conference.
I arrived ten minutes early and waited twenty minutes for the conference to begin. I was seated across from two teachers who, I noticed, were viewing me with a certain disdain. It was as if I smelled bad or was a convicted child molester. I could tell they didn’t approve of me, but I didn’t yet know why.
The meeting commenced, without so much as an introduction, when one of the two women, who I suspected were the boys’ teachers said, “Mrs. Komatsu, while testing your sons we’ve discovered some highly disturbing information.” They now had my complete attention.
I asked, “In what class are they having difficulty?” I’ve always taken their education very seriously and I monitored their progress, in all their classes, on a daily basis.
“The problem we’re having concerns their reading abilities,” I was told. I was completely speechless. I just sat there like a fool with my mouth hanging open.
Finally, I replied, “There has to be some sort of misunderstanding. Sean and Mike are excellent readers. As a matter of fact…”
“I assure you there is no misunderstanding,” she interrupted. We’re professional educators and we are fully competent in our areas of expertise.” At this point I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this was about to get really interesting.
“There must be some sort of mistake,” I said again. “I know how well both…”
She interrupted me, yet again, to say, loudly and slowly. “There… is… no… mistake.”
I was beginning to get a bit irritated. I was called in for a conference, yet I’d already been interrupted, twice, when I attempted to participate. It was becoming clear that my place in these proceedings was to sit quietly and display the proper respect to these highly qualified individuals. However, my respect and my patience were rapidly diminishing. “So why don’t you just tell me what the problem is. I’m sure we all have better ways to spend our afternoon,” I suggested.
The teacher who had previously been silent now spoke. “Mrs. Komatsu, we didn’t know there was a problem until we conducted a test to determine all the children’s level of reading ability. We’ve never seen this happen before. The test evaluates performance up to the ninth-grade level and both your boys passed all elements of the test. Because of that we can’t determine how well they can read.”
I couldn’t help it. I broke out laughing. The second teacher continued, “Mrs. Komatsu, I don’t think you appreciate just how serious this is.”
I replied, “I believe I do understand. Let me tell you what I’ve gotten out of this little conference and you tell me if I’m on track. My boys aced your little test that no one in this school is supposed to be able to complete and in doing so you’ve been unable to label them the way you would like. You obviously know that they read beyond a ninth-grade level so what more could you possibly need to know? They don’t fit your metrics and for some unknown reason you need to point this out to me as if it were a problem. What is it that you want from me?”
I watched the faces, on the other side of the table, turn red. The first teacher took over again. “Mrs. Komatsu, we need to know why your boys read as well as they do.”
Since the boys started school, I’d been prepared to be called in to explain why Sean punched out a bully on the playground or to explain Mike’s unusual sense of humor or a dozen other problems. I was not prepared to address anything related to academics and I was especially unprepared to address questions related to why they exhibited exceptional reading ability.
“Before I answer that I need to ask both of you a question,” I began. “I need to know precisely what question I’m answering. I need to know if I’m answering, ‘Why did my boys ace a test that no one aced before them or am I answering, ‘Why do my boys read better than any other students in the school?’”
The squirming and red faces on the other side of the table let me know that I’d struck a nerve and what I was really expected to answer was the latter question and not the former. “My boys read as well as they do because I invested the time in teaching them to read the way I was taught to read. I purchased a couple Phonics books, spent some time teaching them and then I made sure they always had something they wanted to read. Soon, they loved reading as much as I do. It wasn’t long before they didn’t need me to help them sound out words. Instead they helped each other and, before I realized it, they were off and running. We don’t always have a lot of money but when we go shopping the bookstore is always the first stop. I know they’re excellent readers but until you told me the test results, I had no idea how accomplished they really are.”
The silence, from the other side of the table was deafening. The first teacher, the more dislikable, more pompous of the two spoke. “Mrs. Komatsu, your degree is in…?”
“I don’t have a degree. I graduated High School, that’s all.” I answered.
“…and yet, somehow, you felt qualified to do a job best left to trained professionals with years of experience?” said teacher number one. A quick temper has always been one of my problems. Also, back in those days I had a quick mind. This combination got me in trouble more than a few times. Thankfully, that day wasn’t one of those days.
“Trained professionals with years of experience, like the two of you?” I asked.
“Yes,” replied teacher number one, “I’m glad to see you’re getting something out of this conference.” Something snapped when she said that and teacher number two acted like she’d heard something snap. What had just been broken was my patience. Teacher number two appeared as if she was about to do an impromptu “duck and cover” drill.
I took a few deep breaths and composed myself before I started speaking. I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to foul up. I spoke slowly, distinctly and at a higher volume than I should have. “Since I’m not the sharpest wit in the room, I’d like to make sure I haven’t misunderstood anything that’s happened here, if I may?” Both teachers nodded at me and I continued. “As a poorly educated mom I took two young boys and two paper-back books and produced the only two kids who ever maxed your little evaluation. That’s two out of two. That’s 100%. Every student I taught maxed your exam. In contrast, the two of you, and I have no idea how many other reading teachers in this school, with your multiple degrees, all the resources of a modern school system, all the government funding and all the teacher’s aids have produced exactly none out of the thousands of opportunities you’ve been given. That’s zero out of thousands. That’s a miserable 0.0%. That is a disgrace. Now, unless you’re prepared to hire me as a consultant, I’ve other things to do and places to be. This conference is over.” I got up and walked toward the door.
Teacher number two asked me to wait just another minute and she asked, “Please, tell us what made you decide to teach your boys to read rather than allowing us to do it the proper way.
I let the last crack pass and answered, “Because learning to read is simply too important to be left up to pompous jackasses like you two. Oh, by the way, if I hear of even the slightest incident of this school punishing or issuing any sort of retribution to my boys, in any way, for what I’ve said here today, you will rue the day you met me.” Then I left the room.
I hadn’t made it back to my car before I realized that none of this made any sense. Yes, Sean and Mike were excellent readers but how did that threaten anyone? Yes, they aced the exam but how was that a problem? Surely the faculty could claim credit for that and use it as proof that they were outstanding reading teachers. I’ve always had a need to know how and why stuff worked. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t arrive at a sensible explanation as to what was behind this whole event.
Weeks later, from an acquaintance inside the school system, I learned what had really happened. During the normal course of reading class some of the better readers were enlisted to help some of the slower readers. Sean, being the best reader in the class, was one of those students. All Sean knew was that he was supposed to help his fellow students learn to read and in doing so he chose his preferred method of instruction, Phonics. It just so happened that those he helped also preferred his method as it made learning so much easier.
Inquisitiveness is normally a valuable commodity in children but there are exceptions. One little girl asked the teacher, “Can we use Sean’s way of teaching? We like it a lot better than yours.” As near as I can determine that was the exact second the excrement contacted the whirling blades of the air circulation device.
After she didn’t receive a satisfactory answer, from the teacher, she went home and told the entire story to her parents. Several days later Mom and Dad were in front of the School Board demanding to know why their daughter was receiving higher quality instruction from a classmate than she was from her teacher. For those of you keeping track, this was the exact second the excrement began rolling downhill. I’m sure your imagination can accurately fill in the rest of the story.
Let’s squeeze this story one last time to be certain we’ve gotten every drop of juice out of it. My boys are intelligent but they’re not geniuses and for an amateur I’m an OK teacher… nothing more. The true superstar of this story is Phonics, the method of instruction. While this story doesn’t represent a structured scientific study, it does give some valuable insight. Phonics, which at one time was widely taught in our schools, was abandoned for an inferior method. Why would that happen?
I see only two possibilities and the first is abject stupidity on the part of the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, both of whom have a hand in determining how and what our children are taught. The second, and sadly, most likely, is a concerted effort to reduce the population’s ability to read and to comprehend what it reads.
Reading is the most fundamental and most important subject taught to our children. If one learns to read, and to comprehend what’s read, a person then has the ability to teach themselves almost anything else they please. When one’s ability to read is compromised so is one’s ability to read and acquire new concepts and new skills. When one’s ability to read is hindered so is one’s ability to write and I’m referring to writing in the literary sense and not the handwriting sense. When the population has difficulty reading and writing, their ability to effectively communicate is compromised.
When reading skills are limited self-improvement and the ability to communicate are impacted negatively. What more effective changes can be made to a society if your goal is subjugation and oppression? This is not an accident. This is a sinister, diabolical plot to destroy a nation and a planet. These acts fall into the category of crimes against humanity.
I’ve made this account as accurate as I could. Those of you paying extremely close attention may catch a few small inconsistencies. I’m well aware of them. I’ve tried to justify them from the beginning, ten years ago. I believe they’re evidence that I never uncovered all the pieces of the puzzle.
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