What is Apricus Academy?
The goal of Apricus Academy is to teach kids vital skills they might not receive in traditional education. Find out more about what we are doing!
The Life Dream of Opening a School
Some of you may already know but I worked in Japan for about eight years. It was my first real experience teaching outside of college. I learned so much about children, how to motivate them, and how to troubleshoot problems in their education. I have a lot of respect for all they do. In 2018, when I was selected to spearhead a school in Honolulu, I knew I was ready thanks to them.
When I moved back to Los Angeles, I knew I needed my credential in order to teach again. I joined the LAUSD internship program and started at zero. It was interesting. My entire adult career had already been in education so to begin all over again felt strange. Many people believe or believed I was an English teacher in Japan. I was an English teacher for the first nine months in Japan. After that, I joined the international school that jump-started my real career in education.
I taught pre-school, kindergarten, and some elementary school. I worked with Japanese teachers with decades of experience. My mentors were amazing. Still, the LAUSD teachers did not care about my experience. To them, I was a new teacher.
I think the internship program is a solid program. I do not have any complaints about my teachers or in the programs/pedagogies I learned while in the program. There is a lot of valid and important information in the program. However, when I think about what really helped me become the teacher I am today, it was my experience in Japan.
How is Education in Japan Different?
One major difference is in the way we teach language. I looked at our educational system and how it fails so many students and I needed to understand why, so I started looking for information.
I was curious as to why we do not teach children to read early in their education. Many of our students do not know how to write their name until first grade. I was shocked. There are tons of videos and articles about letting children grow slowly. “They have time!” But do they?
Children Are Falling Behind
I will go into this more in-depth in another blog but statistically, children who are behind in the 4th grade don’t usually catch up. These students lose interest and often become problematic in the classroom.
The process for getting a child tested and diagnosed with a learning disability is lengthy. It can take public school teachers almost two years from beginning to diagnosis.
By that time the child already has trauma, they hate English, and they have zero confidence. Still, much of the literature in America is about why we should let children take their time in learning to read. I just don’t agree.
What Can We Do About It?
When I worked at the international school, we started teaching our students to read at age 1.5. We taught children with music, dance, games, and other types of play.
We built up their fine motor skills and taught them how to hold pencils properly. We read to children often. The older kids read to the younger kids. Each year we built them up.
My 4-year-old class read about 100 sight words and wrote at about a first grade level. We never spent more than 20 minutes writing and it was mostly 1-2 sentences. They had fun. They had confidence.
My kindergarten class read at a third grade level. They knew about 150 sight words, and easily wrote about 6-7 sentences. We read often and wrote lots of stories. They understood paragraphs. They still didn’t spend more than 30 minutes writing. Everything we did was fun.
Our system was simple. We spent the entire day playing games that had intention. Since most of our students were non-native English speakers, English was taught systematically and deliberately.
Pulling Our People Up
Poor people in America often speak casually. If you read my last blog about language registers, then you’ll know that language registers are the different levels of formality within a language, and the poorer a person is corresponds with how casually they speak.
This becomes problematic when they need to apply for jobs or complete forms at the doctor’s office. Yet, there is a belief in our educational system that since children are learning English in a predominately English speaking country, they will pick up language nuances naturally. That just isn’t the case.
I currently teach in South Central Los Angeles. There, people only ever speak in the casual register. Many of my students are the children of immigrants or immigrants.
Our Black students come from generational poverty. They see no need for learning formal English and it is a waste of time. Convincing them otherwise is difficult. Unfortunately, by middle school it is hard to change their minds.
Teach Them Young
We should therefore teach children these skills early on, especially in areas of need. We need to teach English deliberately, systematically, and in a way that makes learning attractive early in their education. It is possible. I’ve done it.
I’ve taught hundreds of children to read before the age of 5. If we can get our children on board and ahead early, they will not fall behind easily.
In addition, one of the perks of teaching children young is we are able to identify learning difficulties. That would lead to earlier diagnosis and prevent children from slipping through the cracks.
This school would serve to educate our highest need students with the methods I learned in Japan. There are many moving pieces but this school is a work in progress.
If you have not done so, please make sure you sign up for blog updates. When you are done, check out ApricusAcademy.com.
There you will learn more about the school and all the cool things we are doing in order to make this dream a reality.
Thanks for reading!