OMG. I forgot how much I love seeing my students in their three-dimensional forms. All high waisted jeans and oversized sweatshirts, all bright-eyed and animated, all chipped nails and two-toned hair, all scritchy scratchy with their pencils; all whisper-sharing; all super cool and super real!
But wait! It gets even better.
There is this one student with whom I’ve spent the better part of this past school year cajoling him to engage in virtual classes and to turn in work. So much so, that my family knows this child by the sound of his voice. He began the year disengaged, distracted and dependent. He failed most of the first semester. Our team worried he wouldn’t pass eighth grade.
But here is the thing I learned early on. This kid loves to read, and books became the intersection of our student-teacher relationship. The librarian and I fed him stacks of books. We dropped books off at his apartment, and by the following week, he finished those and was requesting more.
His high-level of reading engagement directly contrasts his long history of low and failing comprehension scores on district and state assessments. So while he struggles to pay attention in synchronous classes and attend to synchronous classwork, this boy has decided to turn up his superpower, reading. He read all throughout September, on into December and across the month of February.
March 16, 2021: Andre entered the classroom for the first time this afternoon. He was taller than I expected with a mop of black hair brushed to the side. His button-up plaid dress shirt suggested he was taking his “first day of school” seriously.
During class he took out his iPad and worked through a series of class assignments, like an engaged, attentive and independent student. When it was time to write in our journals about the prompt: Think about something you are passionate about and write long, Andre filled up a full notebook page with his thinking.
Near the end of the writing block, I leaned down and asked Andre what passion he was writing about, and do you know what he said?
READING!! He wrote a whole page about how much he loves to read.
I wanted to hug him right then and there! I wanted to tell him he is a bright light beaming through the dark assessment data. I wanted to tell him to just straight up ignore all of our fussing at him to be better, to do better, to fit our mold better. I wanted him to know that despite our best efforts to define him as a struggling and below basic reader, it clearly wasn’t enough to stop him from his passion!
And the best moment of the year didn’t stop there. After the principal excused the walkers and car riders from the building, and it was just Andre and me in the classroom, I asked him how his first day back at school went.
He looked at me all cheery-eyed, all I-got-this, all trying-to-be-the-best-student-ever, and said: “It was really good!”
And I believed in him!