Did you know Synapse Head of School, Jim Eagen, used to be an English teacher? To this day, he still loves to write! These blog posts come from his own pen and often start as emails or speeches to the Synapse Community.
I remember the moment I became skeptical of adults. It was in third grade, when my wonderfully kind and caring teacher circled all of us up on the rug in her room and began to put us in reading groups. There were three groups: A, B and C. A was for the most advanced readers, B for those who were proficient, and C for those who were emerging.
At this age, most kids are keenly aware of who can read well. I, for one, knew exactly who the supreme reader was in the class: my best friend, Matt Poggi. He was by far the best and the brightest, undoubtedly an A group reader.
Our teacher called the C group first, and Matt and I watched as those students stood up and shuffled out into the hallway. Next up was the B group. Matt’s name was called. He got up, with no hesitation, and followed the group out, and that was that.
I distinctly remember, thinking, how could this be? Everyone knew Matt was the best reader in the class. We all knew this, so I thought. Somehow, the teacher made a mistake. I kept quiet, never one to challenge adults back then, and as they were calling the A’s, I heard my name read out loud by the teacher, but not Matt’s. I was bewildered. How could my teacher, an adult who appeared to have the answers to everything, get it wrong?
Matt did just fine in third grade. In fact, Matt thrived in school and went on to do absolutely incredible things with his life, helping countless people, serving his country for years, until disease ended things far too soon. Matt’s mom, a teacher, meant the world to me when I was a little boy. She was the one who inspired me to ski, to read, to do art, and music - and even to attend boarding school. In middle school, she would invite me to jump in the back of their station wagon most fall and spring weekends to visit Matt’s brothers at Hotchkiss School. I would go watch Peter, Paul, and Patrick compete in track meets and football games. I loved those outings so much that she convinced my mother, another teacher, that I would thrive at the Millbrook School. And I did. This time, the teachers got it right!
Despite what some adults might think or even want, children don’t believe everything they are told. Children over 6 years of age are more likely to seek out additional information than 4- and 5-year olds. And as your children age, they become even more skeptical of what adults tell them. This is not only normal, it’s a good thing. Kids will explore, and when they do, they will encounter a number of surprising claims and as they become more aware of what adults tell them, a child’s exploration becomes more efficient and effective. Most kids will seek out ways to verify what they have been told or have heard. Again, this is a good thing.
As teachers and parents, we are here to help children make sense of their world, not to know everything. And you know what is a good way to do that? Instilling a love of reading books. Reading helps children learn to make sense not only of the world around them but also of people, building social-emotional skills and, of course, imagination. New voices, new places, and new ideas are found in books. Reading is also a critical foundation for developing logic and problem-solving skills. So, read to your kids, with your kids, and for your kids. Surround them with books, go to the library, visit bookstores, and model reading books yourself. All of our Synapse teachers, my mom, Mrs. Poggi, and yes, even my third-grade teacher, would wholeheartedly agree.