Friday, July 23, 2010

It's a story, of a . . . .

Raise your hand if you immediately began singing the theme to The Brady Bunch.  If you haven't already, you will now.  I came across this post at the Cooperative Catalyst and the need to share our success stories.  Our little success stories.  Not our "Teacher in Shining Armor" stories where we helped every kid who was four grade levels behind in math build their own manned space ship to the moon.  Those little stories that another teacher will appreciate.

After twenty years of doing this, I have been able to collect a few stories of small success.  And when I say "small" I mean small.  This is my latest story.  It's a story about a boy we'll call "Paul".  When you first meet Paul, you see the dark graphic tee and the "I don't care" swagger.  If you look really closely, you see a kid who is extremely intelligent, quick to make connections to everything he is learning, but even quicker to hide this fact from those around him - teacher and student.  The easiest thing to see is Paul's lack of impulse control that manifests itself in saying whatever comes to his mind at that moment.  And even though what he says is usually true, it also usually said in an inappropriate manner or at an inappropriate time (usually both).  Oh, and don't ever try to bully Paul.  That means don't stand over him and try to exert your authority.  Don't embarrass him in front of his peers.  And if you are another student, you better back up your words with action cause you will pay for them.

Paul walked into our school as a sixth grader who had already repeated fifth grade.  He was described as a problem child who had extreme difficulty reading.  He was projected by his previous teachers to score a low 2 on his end of grade test. (Three is passing.)  And here is where the story ceases to become my story, but my team's story.  We recognized the other side of Paul early on.  We would not except less than his best.  No fuss.  No fighting.  No arguments.  Just go back and redo it.  We all know you can do better.  By third quarter, Paul was acing all his language arts assessments.  He was finding his own story in the poetry of others.  He even softened and told us, his teachers, his own story of an abusive, drug-addicted environment.  He told us of his felt need to protect his mother and little sister.

In one month, Paul will walk back into our school.  My team was given the privilege of moving up to the seventh grade and getting about 85% of our kids back, including Paul.  We have scheduled Paul for advanced language arts and advanced math.  He's still going to say some inappropriate things.  He is still going to need to be reminded of how smart he really is and that it's okay to succeed.  But he will be back.  Best of all, he wants to be back.  And honestly, there is nothing small about that story.

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