Blogging in E minor
Usually just a bunch of silly crap.

“Just Sound It Out!”

Though I was a relatively bright kid, I had some difficulty learning to read. In Kindergarten, I had learned all the letters, most of their sounds and a few sight words. But in first grade, when we began reading (they start earlier these days), nobody bothered to tell me that you’re supposed to take the sounds of all the letters and run them together to make words. Instead, we were told “Just sound it out!”

            Perhaps it was intended as a classroom management technique when my first grade teacher told us that red heads like her have bad tempers. She was loud, had a cackley voice and actually claimed to be a witch! I was sold. The lady outright frightened me and I wasn’t about to step out of line.

            I recall one time when said red head passed out a worksheet to the whole class. There were four pictures, and each picture had four words below it from which we were to circle the one depicted.

            Unfortunately, I had difficulty with two of these exercises. One showed two men pulling against each other from opposite ends of a rope. I had seen this before, but had no idea what it was called. The other depicted the guy from baseball games who calls balls and strikes. I didn’t see anything that looked like “vampire” among the choices, so I became concerned.

            With great trepidation, I approached the Mean Lady’s desk. She was already occupied with another student, Carl, who was also having difficulties.

            Suddenly, teacher began screaming all-out at Carl: “Just sound it out!”

            As Carl struggled with the words, the teacher continued yelling at him. He started crying.

            Was this what I had coming next? Carl was having trouble with the words. I didn’t even know what the pictures were! I became terrified and began bawling loudly.

            Teachers gaze averted Carl’s to notice my sobbing face behind him. “What are YOU crying for?” the bad tempered red head screamed. This served as comic relief for the entire class.

            “I. . . I. . . d-don’t know what the pictures are,” I sniffled.

            The predictable response: “Just sound it out!”

            I read all the words below the men with the rope, unable to recognize the correct one. The teacher became exasperated.

            For whatever reason, she drew a picture on the board with chalk of a face with a big head of curly hair. She wrote four words below it and asked me to choose the correct one. I picked the one that started with a “G”

            “Girl,” I answered.

            “That says Gene!” she scolded. Looking back, I have no idea how she could expect us to read words with soft “g’s” and silent “e’s” at his point. “Does that look like Gene?” she asked, impatiently pounding  the board with an outstretched fingertip.

            Of course not. Gene wasn’t a girl.

            She asked Carl, who didn’t know either. Then she posed the question to the entire class.

            “Bill,” somebody volunteered.

            ‘That’s right,” teacher said. “It’s Bill. Don’t you see the long hair?” she barked at me. Bill did have long hair, but not the big curly locks as shown in the picture. He had more of an albino afro thing going on. Of course, I was unable to articulate this.

            Eventually, I returned to my seat and dried my eyes. The people around me revealed that the pictures were “tug” and “ump.” I immediately found the correct words from among the choices. I wished I had just asked my classmates in the first place.

            Just sound it out? Perhaps we should seriously consider the merits of the whole language approach.


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