Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer School

I'm not really happy about teaching summer school, but my daughter is getting married next Spring and the money is good... Hmmmm.... The children I will be teaching this summer really deserve better than that. If I am going to commit to teaching summer school for 6 weeks - teaching children who are needy or they wouldn't be there - then they deserve my best. And so... as I closed out one year and begin summer teaching the very next day, I know it will have to be with an improved attitude.

On my first day I am assigned to third grade!!! Whoever thinks I can teach 3rd grade has more confidence in me than I might deserve! I have NEVER taught 3rd grade - the first year of high stakes testing - and haven't taught anything above 1st grade in over 25 years - but it is here that I find myself. As I look down my very short list of students I recognized one of the names on the list. The 3rd grader was a child that I heard lots about last year because she was a bright child, who really suffered from focus issues. The child had documented ADHD and the teacher had worked so very hard with her and with her family. I remember observing in the classroom and the child sat right in front of the teacher and all through the lesson the teacher gently touched the child to bring her back on task. The teacher's management system was constant redirection. Somehow the child eeked out a 2 on the FCAT but failed Reading for the year. She simply could not consistently pass the comprehension assessments in the classroom that mirrored the high stakes test. Now she sits in Summer School hoping to pass a final benchmark test at 70% so she can go on to 4th grade next year.

As I picked her up on that first day it was obvious she had been crying. I guess no one really enjoys the idea of coming to summer school. As I have had this child for the first few days I have learned that she reads well, even with expression, but when asked about what she has just read, cannot answer questions with any depth. Actually she even struggles with literal questions. Her writing is much the same. Her thoughts are jumbled and repetitive. It must be difficult for this child who has so much going on inside her busy head to organize her thoughts and to stay with any topic for any length of time. In thinking about different ways to help this youngster, I contacted her 3rd grade teacher and asked her if she would be willing to write back and forth through e-mail, thinking this might be an incentive. The child talked lovingly about her teacher. The teacher was delighted. The child mailed this first e-mail:

hey Mrs.T it's K, i'm in summer school and i made 2 new friends there names are Kaitlyn and Joe. My 2 friends and i met your friend our teacher.I am going to do so good in reading summer school i might go to 4th grade. since i am going to anew school next year but it's going to be to far away from my house and how can i stay in Chets Creek even when i am going to be rezoned to the new school since Chets Creek is not so far? please write back.

The teacher wrote back this delightful message.

Inside of a cool, dimly lit living room sits a relaxed teacher. Mrs. T is what most of her students call her, mommy is what she is called at home, and Randi is her name to her family and friends. Musical notes flow, dance, and swirl out of the radio on this special day as Mrs. T sits down at her computer. Ding, da, ding, da, ding... her computer wakes up from it's sleep and says hello in only the way a computer can. Light flashes from the screen as her computer stretches and yawns to prepare for a little work. A soft clicking sound can be heard as Mrs. T's fingers strike the keys, her email opens, signing in... hold one moment please... oh okay there we are. A puzzling look crosses over her face??? There is an email in her inbox that is from a teacher friend and it says K. K??? Mrs. T only knows one K. Questions popcorn around inside Mrs. T's brain. Is this my sweet, brilliant K? How does K know her teacher friend? What is going on? She is as curious as a newborn kitten. "Double click on the email and see for yourself," thinks Mrs. T. "Oh my goodness!!!" she exclaims. "IT IS MY K!" Mrs. T is so incredibly delighted to hear from K that she jumps up from her chair and does a leap and a twirl in the middle of that cool, dimly lit living room. Quickly she plops back down in front of the screen, pauses for a moment to think, and begins to type a story about a time she met the loveliest girl in all the land.

There was once a beautiful girl named Princess K...To be continued... your turn...

K was so excited to hear back from her teacher that she grinned all day long. Now I have to admit that the story K started as a response about Princess K needs lots of work, but I certainly had no trouble getting her to start writing! She couldn't wait to get started. Maybe this summer school thing might be fun after all!


Dave, Elizabeth, Charlie and Kate said...

Loved reading this post! It may help that I know all three characters in the story, but honestly, it wouldn't matter. Mrs. T's response was absolutely perfect for Princess K! So honored to have worked with both of you! Keep the positivity rolling!

Toni Chant said...

Dear dayle,

You continue to inspire students and teachers alike with your candid truths about life in school. What a brilliant idea it was getting K to correspond with her third grade teacher via email (hooray for technology). As for R.T., your story offered me endearing snapshots of a great teacher living her life's passion. Kudos to both of you!