Those of you who know me may already know the story, or at least part of it, but I thought it would be appropriate to start this blog with a back-story, so you know where I am coming from. I have no intention, however, to make this blog about me and my experiences – who wants to read that? My hope is that it will develop into a place of sharing for educators and parents alike, a place where questions can be asked and answered, information can be shared, and positive vibes can emanate.
The story begins about fourteen years ago in a first grade classroom in a very large school district where I felt very small. My first six years of teaching were in first grade, where I became almost addicted to teaching reading. It was my favorite part of the curriculum. I loved reading stories to my class, and loved sitting with a small group at the back table during center time to teach phonics and guided reading. What I loved the most was watching that little light bulb go off in a first grader’s head when he finally figured it out – he figured out the “code” and was finally able to read! Ahh, those were the good ol’ days.
Then I had the opportunity to leave the classroom and start a reading intervention program , a pull-out program in the school’s computer lab for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. I loved the program, and my first-grade experience with reading helped when it came to filling in some gaps for those older students who were struggling. For the first time I was able to see how difficult school could become for a child who couldn’t read fluently by third grade. I also saw how negative behaviors developed in kids as a coping mechanism, and a way to hide the fact that they could barely read. These were really great kids, and I enjoyed working with them every morning for their alternative language arts program. This led me to a school change after a few years, to a middle school where I had hoped I would be using this same intervention program every class period to help struggling 7th and 8th graders.
Wow, was I in for a culture shock! I really have to hand it to middle school teachers, especially the ones I worked with at this very needy inner-city school. My first stumble was learning that I wouldn’t be using the reading program every class period, but I still needed to provide reading interventions. With what? I was given no materials, no help, and I think some of the roughest kids I’ve ever come into contact with. Don’t get me wrong, some of these students didn’t give me any trouble and I think they really wanted to learn. The rest were gang members, drug dealers, and truants, and I started to feel more like a warden than a teacher. Needless to say, my elementary school experience and quiet gentle nature didn’t get me very far in that assignment.
That was when I jumped ship to the much smaller school district of my new hometown. A new town, a fresh start, schools with much higher API scores – how could I go wrong? The administration, staff, and parents were all a breath of fresh air, and even the school district leaders were friendly people I actually became acquainted with over the course of four years. I was asked to be on the school’s leadership team, to attend special district collaboration sessions, and even piloted another reading intervention program for my school.
What I didn’t realize was that when schools are doing well, the school budget is tighter because the schools getting all of the federal funding are the ones doing poorly, thank you very much No Child Left Behind (I’ll save that rant for another blog post!). My fifth grade class averaged 35 students, and there was no money for classroom aides or a resource teacher. Lesson plans, preparation, and grading were sucking up all of my free time, the amount of paperwork was increasing, blah, blah, BLAH! I think just about all teachers are facing this dilemma these days. But the straw that broke this camel’s back was the overwhelming frustration that I had a student in 5th grade who couldn’t read, and try as I might I could not get him the help he needed. My heart broke for this kid. Even with special education identification this boy was not getting the level of systematic phonics instruction that he needed to become a better reader. And with a classroom full of other students and 5th grade standards to teach, I didn’t have the time to do it myself.
So I left the classroom, but I didn’t want to leave teaching – I love teaching children! It’s all of the other stuff that goes with it that was too frustrating. I’m a teacher at heart, not a circus performer who jumps through hoops. One clear night while gazing up at the stars, I had an idea that hit me like a sledgehammer. I wanted to continue helping children learn how to read. It’s what I knew, it’s what I loved. So why not make instructional reading software that ‘s fun AND uses the latest strategies in effective teaching? At that moment Red Apple Reading was born!
Since that fateful night over a year ago my life has been an exciting and challenging whirlwind of activity. Even though I spend a lot of time on this project, I love my new job as the guiding force of Red Apple Reading, and I enjoy working with all of the wonderful people helping to make this dream a reality. What dream?
The dream of helping as many children as possible learn how to read, by providing a wholesome, instructional, online reading program that’s fun and effective.
I promised myself I would not use this blog purely to promote my own product, but I do feel the need to get the word out about this latest greatest addition to the online children’s reading software market. Red Apple Reading is in the testing phase and will be ready for sale soon, but in the meantime you can learn more about it by visiting our website: RedAppleReading.com. Also check out our videos on YouTube on the Red Apple Reading channel, and keep an eye out for our Open House video series coming soon! Keep up with Red Apple news and read about the latest educational buzz on our Facebook page (please click the LIKE button!) or via our Twitter feed. And stay tuned right here for more blogs on the latest in education, ways you can help children with reading, and of course you won’t want to miss my blog celebrating the 10th anniversary of the NCLB Act! I also welcome guest bloggers, comments, and discussions, so please feel free to join the educational forum.