*Fifty years ago this year, I first embarked on my journey to become an educator. I'm looking back on some of the memories I made along the way.
|A clipping rom the Leadville Herald Democrat
I am the "Trained Aide" in the photo
I saw the philosophy behind Head Start as one that aligned with my own belief system about the value of education and the role it played in economic opportunity. While I had never articulated my beliefs at the time in this manner, a believer in social justice, I firmly believed that it was only through education that those living in poverty would be able overcome the social and economic inequities that were found in our country at during the early sixties.
|Head Start Students
She knew what children needed to grow and to prosper educationally, emotionally and socially. She embraced the ideals behind Project Head Start and imparted them to me along with all of the reasons why she believed the program could be successful. She said that the children of poverty in the area where we lived were beginning school without the skills that other children brought to school. Sometimes, they didn't even know how to use indoor plumbing. Yes, in 1965, in our program in Leadville, Colorado, some of the children did not have indoor plumbing. We had to teach them how to use the bathroom facilities. Some did not receive proper nutrition at home and many were undernourished. They lagged behind their peers in knowing how to grasp a pencil or how to turn the pages of a book. Many did not know the alphabet. They did not know how to write their names. Many did not know colors or shapes. They did not have group or personal social skills. All of these needs would be met, as best they could be, by our summer program. The program was comprehensive. School readiness was achieved by giving the children equal portions of playtime, story time, art activities, and basic academic preparation such as learning how to recognize and form letters through reading and writing.
I often wish I could discuss today's state of education with Mrs. Riggs. I know she would have some very strong ideas on what must happen if we are to achieve the lofty ideals that we had in the 60's.
* I originally wrote parts this post in 2009. Parts of it were publish in the Fall 2010 issue of "The Colorado Communicator," a newsletter for the Colorado Council International Reading Associate. Serving as co-editor for this newsletter was one of my "retirement jobs."