This summer, I decided to do a little professional reading and link up with my PEEPS. Many books came highly recommended, but as I cleaned out my office and redecorated my home workspace, I ran across the book Marva Collins Way by Marva Collins. I read this book like twenty years ago while attending college at CAU ( Clark Atlanta University) studying to be a teacher. So I decided to go ahead and re-read one of the most influential books of my educational profession.
To provide just a little background, I was born in the late 70's in California. My parents provided a strong foundation prior to entering kindergarten. My mom instilled the importance of schooling and getting a head start in life. She drilled my sisters and I using math flash cards, worked with us on our handwriting daily even on weekends and read books to us that provided positive images of black people. I was reading books by age three and knew all my addition and subtraction facts by age four. I began to write letters to family members by the age of five.
I attended a small Home School in our community up until second grade, with about 12 students total of varying ages and grade levels. We didn't have much ( no iPads, computers, not even many books) but we learned tons! Recess was never the focus but discovery and critical thinking was encouraged and practiced daily. Our neighborhood like many other low income communities was infested with drugs which led to violence. We heard gun shots throughout each day, would see crack heads walking up and down the streets, and the young drug dealers were our classmates and friends before they began to drop out of school. At our public schools many of the teachers who didn't look like us would take jobs and leave within a week or two. One year I had over 5 different teachers and the principal had to sub for our class for a week!
Looking back, I know why this book touched me so deeply. Marva Collins is my Shero! She didn't give up on the future generation. I decided to become a teacher way before I attended college. I wanted to be just like Mrs. Grasty my third grade teacher who looked just like me. She was beautiful, tall, intelligent, strict, kind, and organized. She showed up each day and I believed that she cared about me. Over the last 18 years, I too have agreed to show up! I care about our future leaders and I have chosen to serve the kids to the best of my ability. It is not a hard task working in Title 1 Schools. But for over eighteen years, I've done it and I am proud. I believe I am making a difference in many little ones lives, even if my scores don't show such progress. But those days when I'm frustrated, worn out, or completely done, I think about Marva Collins and I think if I don't do it, who will? I think of the innocent children who are yearning for someone to show them that they care and believe that they can do more than what they even believe they can.
Though this book was published several decades ago, the problems are still the same. School systems often look towards the newest curriculum and or teaching methods for new trends on how to educate "failing students"or those that have been passed over, ignored, labeled and misunderstood.
Marva Collins started West Side Preparatory School in Chicago in 1975. She also founded a style of education later known as "Collins Method." This teaching style focuses on the basics. She taught her students using the "Classics" not children's literature and encouraged them to think. She began teaching them to read using a foundation in phonics that prepared students to read using phonetic code, repetition and review was consistent and discovery and curiosity is what drove her lessons. She started her school with only four students and grew to over 200 students, serving the community for over 30 years!