Learn what you can do so there is No More Gap
Donate university and post-secondary lanyards to carry students' “Keys to the Future”
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by Mary Ann S. Bash, Director of Each One Teach One
The threads from my growing up and 38 years as a teacher wove themselves into this unique tapestry called Each One Teach One.
The question directed at me as a veteran American educator by a teacher in China stopped me in my tracks. “So are American schools teaching students better now than they did when you began your teaching career?” According to newspaper headlines and professional journal articles, American schools are grappling with the same issues of low achievement and high drop out rates they faced 30 years ago when I was a new teacher. With that thread I had the warp to begin weaving the tapestry.
The weft for the tapestry appeared when I read Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley's seminal book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Instead of giving in to the seemingly intractable gap in oral language experience that equips children to succeed in school, I read the final chapter in Meaningful Differences as my personal Call to Action. I committed myself to providing children the conversational and vocabulary skills they need so there is No More Gap. The foundation of my tapestry was laid.
As a veteran teacher and inveterate learner, I had the skills and experience to create the design for the tapestry, so I retired in order to meet the No More Gap challenge head on. I had studied and experimented with the important work of Dialogic Reading created for families and teachers of young children age 2 to 5 years. I personally wasn't inspired by the work and although I received the highest ratings for my professional workshops teaching librarians and parents to use Dialogic Reading, none of the participants actually implemented the techniques. Obviously, I didn't inspire them either.
Then I met 3rd and 5th graders for whom the vocabulary Gap was far greater than the 30 million-word gap 3 year olds face. I couldn't satiate the older students' appetite for powerful English vocabulary. Within a week I knew that new vocabulary words were these students' “keys to the future.” Teachers asked me what I was doing with these students that they could remember vocabulary words months after they were first introduced to them. The students became participants in class discussions. I was beginning to see the pattern in the tapestry.
My educational philosophy is strongly grounded in the work of Lev Vygotsky. Who could have imagined that a book I read as a college senior with no intentions of becoming a teacher would inspire my retirement “career.” Earlier in my career, Vygotsky's work had inspired me to co-author Think Aloud, a curriculum to give young impulsive and aggressive children language tools for appropriate academic and social behaviors. Three key elements of Think Aloud became the color palette for Each One Teach One: consistent repetition of four questions to develop children's independence.
Now thirty years after reading Thought and Language, Vygotsky's theory of leading children's development through their Zones of Proximal Development gave me the tools for an epiphany. Students begged to come to my class to learn vocabulary. The only way to meet the need and interest was to turn students into teachers for each other. Thus when a student learned 25 “keys to the future,” they earned the responsibility to teach those new words to another student using exactly the same teaching process I had used with them.
Six weeks later instead of one teacher and 32 students, we were 96 Each One Teach One teachers. And it was a five year old who taught me how many Each One Teach One teachers could be mobilized so there would be No More Gap. A kindergartner asked if his classmate could teach him his words, and the youngest Each One Teach One teacher was “deputized.” Leave it to the children to show me the light: an Each One Teach One aunt asked me to come to her house to video tape her 3-year old Spanish-speaking niece being an Each One Teach One teacher with her playmates!
The design options of the tapestry continue to emerge as participants implement and envision unique Each One Teach One initiatives:
- A leadership development program for low-income 8th graders.
- An intervention for low-achieving 4th-5th grade English Language Learners.
- A service project for high school students and community volunteers.
- A project for Girl Scouts seeking their Silver or Gold Award.
The scale of the tapestry will be defined by the resourcefulness and willful determination of all of us to commit to No More Gap for the good of the children and our country's future. I welcome everyone–young and older–to be part of the solution. Thank you and welcome to Each One Teach One service.
Mary Ann S. Bash, Director
Each One Teach One
Message in the Logo
The explanation of the Each One Teach One logo by 5th and 8th graders shows their deep understanding of this important work and their value for teaching and learning. The older students see themselves as the larger figure on the right LIFTING up another student by teaching them vocabulary—their keys to the future—and “high fiving” in celebration!
The students describe how the logo also can be viewed as an abstract tree: Each One Teach One develops children and their parents with the strength of a tree leafing out with new learning, they say. Also a tree has deep roots to hold it firmly despite winds that batter it.
After I introduced them to the psychology behind colors, the students chose purple for Teach One because of its representation of “respect” and blue for Each One because book reading one-on-one is so “calming.”
The students and I hope that when you see the Each One Teach One logo a smile crosses your face as you remember the joy we have learning new vocabulary that gives us a voice for expressing our ideas.