My Reading Crusade, Part 3

I kept writing more units of my reading program (now titled The Language Enrichment Program, available under that title on Amazon). One day the Assistant Principal enrolled a new student into my class. That is where my reading program proved most helpful. I started the new student with the first chapter, and he worked diligently and did well doing this work.

A bit further into the semester, the Assistant Principal came to me and asked if I would be willing to let the new student, James, attend my class for an additional class period. I said that would be just fine, for he was well behaved and diligent in my class. The Assistant Principal told me that James had gotten into an argument with a girl over a ring and when his social studies teacher attempted to intervene, James got into a fight with the teacher.

Perhaps a week later, the Assistant Principal came to me again to ask another favor. Would I be willing to let James attend my class for yet another hour? He explained that James had gotten into a fight with the gym teacher. I was happy to let James attend my class for what was now the third period each day. James was a “ward of the court,” and was removed from my school not long after. I believe the court was impressed that James did very well in my class using my special program.

By this time the Assistant Principal had become very favorably impressed with my experimental self-instructional programmed learning reading program. The Assistant Principal somehow got wind of some very bad issues that developed in one of my classes, unknown to me. He expelled about a dozen of my students for falsely accusing me of looking up their dresses and down their blouses. He told the students that their teacher, Mr. Smith, was a fine Christian man who had gone far beyond the call of duty to teach them to read and write better. The Assistant Principal was Jewish, himself. He later gave me some wonderful classic Jewish books which I still have.

I was on my way, driving my first car, a new VW barely a month old, to the winter outing with the young people’s group from my church. I may have slid on some “black ice,” and my car rolled end for end three times, landing on its top. I was in good hands. A car full of nurses from the young people’s group, seeing what happened, stopped to assist. An ambulance coming the other direction on the freeway stopped and took me to Hurley Hospital in Flint. I was in a cast for a month, with several broken fingers. With a cast, I was not allowed to teach. The Assistant Principal came to my home to get my lesson plans. He was most impressed that I had them all typed up for several weeks ahead. My students sent me a nice, large get-well soon card, and the faculty sent a new book for me to read while recuperating.

I was working on my Master’s thesis, and it was hard to take notes because I am right-handed, and it is the right hand that was in the cast. I learned to write left-handed and eat left handed too.

I had told Dr. Lloyd about my little program. He suggested I take the Greyhound bus to East Lansing, and that I bring my program along for him to see. He met me at the bus station. He took me to Resources Development Corporation, where, upon reading a chapter of the program, he said he learned a lot! Then he took me to meet Dr. John Ball, the President of Resources Development Corporation, and looking at my program for a few moments, Dr. Ball said, “You’re hired.” I did not leave my teaching job, but I did work several summers at Resources Development Corporation, writing programmed instruction books for industry.

After recuperating, I continued to teach at Neinas Junior High School. I also taught at the newly-built Earhart Junior High School, the replacement for Neinas.

Not long after this, I was invited to take a new teaching position at Cass Technical High School to teach English and help run the new Programmed Instruction Laboratory with Mrs. Malik, a teacher I had met at the Detroit Linguistic Club, and a friend of Dr. Donald J. Lloyd, at Wayne State University.

I packed all those little steel boxes in a cardboard box and put it in my apartment walk-in closet.

The Programmed Instruction Laboratory was often visited by educators from around the city and even around the world. It was a unique place where students could come to get tutored in any subject by using the extensive library of programmed instruction books.

One day I was explaining the effectiveness of the Programmed Instruction Laboratory to a small group of visitors. I happened to remark that I had written my own linguistic program and used it with great success to raise the reading comprehension level of the students in my English and reading classes. One of the visitors, Dr. Nancy Boykin, asked me where my program was now. I said, “At the bottom of my walk-in closet at home.” She said she was eager to have access to such a program to use with her Continuing Education for Girls program. I arranged for her to get a copy, and to have a secretary type it up for their use. She later told me that the program worked very well for her students.

Before I released individual chapters to Dr. Boykin, I had some of my students at Cass work the program for extra credit. I was able to re-validate the program and add more to it. I used it with honors classes and regular classes. Other teachers, whether foreign language teachers or English teachers, told me they could always tell which students had been in my class for they did much better than others and understood English grammar well. As a result, I learned that my little program, now grown much larger, worked well with all students, for I had now used it with students at many different grade and ability levels successfully.

A chemistry teacher at Cass learned that I knew how to write programmed instruction material. He came to me and asked if I would be willing to write several units of instruction as part of his requirements to gain an advanced degree. I agreed, and wrote four new chapters for my program about pronoun case. That is a complex topic for many students, but many of my students were able to pass a very sophisticated test I wrote to check their knowledge of the subject of pronoun case usage. The test required students not only to select the proper pronoun choice, but also select the correct grammatical reason to justify their choice.

The chemistry teacher then invited me to write an article about the effectiveness of programmed instruction for teaching science subjects. We each wrote our own article, and both articles were published together in a journal devoted to science teaching.

You will want to read the next installment of this series to learn what happened next!

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