Observation 3 (Winter)
I have this thing where I make connections with kids fairly easily. When I was a senior in high school, I only went to school for half of the day. Every afternoon/evening, I worked at an after school program at the elementary school. I spent anywhere from two to four hours with the same group of kids over the course of the academic year. I would help them with homework, my collegues and I would play gym games with them as well as board games and other activities. There were a few of the students that I connect with on a deeper level than that of simply supervising and it just so happens that returning to the same school district six years later, I recognize many of them sitting in the desks of my classroom.
One student in particular sparked my attention. During the first few weeks of my placement he sat, his posture resembling a limp lazy toad, at the back table of my classroom next to one of the smartest, most attentive student in the school. Limp lazy toad student was practically swimming in his Carhart jacket and his blond sandy hair matched the jackets color. He kept his head up by perching it on the palm of his left and and kept awake (most of the time) by blinking slowly and every so often, liking his lips. When I would check on his progress through an assigned activity there would be nothing written on his paper and his responses to my questions stayed generally the same, “I don’t know how to do this,” “Wait…I’m confused.” I checked this students grades and was saddened when I saw a 37.2% in Language Arts.
I began to ask Mr. CT-man an annoying number of questions and when I felt like he was beyond annoyed I journeyed to the Special Education department to annoy the pants off of someone else who might help me understand the student who seemed to “not-understand” anything in class. I learned quickly that the student hadn’t made much progress in reading since I’d left him in this small town almost 6 years ago. My heart sank when I heard that he probably never will learn how to read and because of how big our classes are and how small our budget is in comparison, this student doesn’t get the one on one explanation or attention he needs most of the time.
I walked away from the meeting with a set of goals. (1) Make him smile: in my opinion a lot of the limp lazy toad attitude could be quickly changed given the opportunity for a fresh start in the class everyday and that could be shown through a smile. (2) Make him feel like he has the opportunity and ability to succeed: for the next few weeks I sat next to him during down time and gave him incremental goals. I would say something along the lines of, “Put your name and date on the paper and when I come back I will check on you.” I would give him a few minutes to do so and then would reward him with a high-five or nice comment and then say, “Okay, now three sentences. I will go check on everyone else and when I come back I need to see three sentences.” His limp lazy frog posture changed and he was completing assignments. My third goal was to get his grade up. This student was used to “failing” but the problem was that the standard he was being measured with was not accurate or fair in comparison with his abilities. I began to modify assignments based on his ability and at one point offered him the ability to make up his missing assignments now that he knew he was capable.
Today, this student walked into my class smiling. He had a pencil, his journal was filled out and he made jokes with me before the bell rang. His grade in my class is an 89%.