Gerlma A.S. Johnson's Learning Story


My learning story takes place during a serene summer on my front porch. I was seven years old. Having been empowered with the magic of Reading, I decided to pass the magic on by teaching my younger sister to read. She was four. On that porch those sunny days, with patience on both the part of myself and my sister, we meticulously went through the lessons that I had learned in school. We now call that pedagogy, but then it was, “My teacher said to do it like this.”

After learning how the letters sounded (phonemic awareness), we went into sight / high frequency words, sentences and context clues. This took place with no basal reader, sound cards, or curriculum – just the cardboard toddler books we loved which were bought by our parents — usually begged piteously for in the checkout line of a market. By the end of the summer, my sister was a bona fide reader armed with this ability when she entered Kindergarten. Whenever someone asked her in those halcyon days how she learned to read, she pointed at me and said, “She teached me.”. (Obviously, Grammar came later.)

The interesting thing was that no one believed her. It was beyond their comprehension that another child just beyond the toddling stage could imbue such knowledge into another. Soon it became the secret behind our smiles upon being posed that question.

The learning for me? That gentle summer taught me lessons at the age of seven that have remained with me to this day:

1. Knowledge is something that no one can take from you, but you are free to give.

2. No matter how it appears, everyone~no matter how young, old, great or small~has the ability to teach and to learn.

3. Education IS ……. not how, who or where.

4. I could make a lifelong impact in the life of another. I had to treat that realization with the honor and respect it deserved.

P.S. After the switch-backs that life takes us through, I became a teacher. I remain in education to this day-both in the acquisition of and the delivery of learning.