Wednesday, May 24, 2006

About A Boy

I got the phone call last October, on the first day of the second semester. "Ms. Wose, you have a new student, come down to the office to pick him up." Swell.

He was a pale, skinny boy with big sunken eyes and messy brown hair. His first words to me were, "I hate school. I hate reading. I hate writing. I hate math. I hate everything about school." And may I repeat, swell.

It quickly became apparent why the boy hated school, and reading, and writing, and math. He could barely read, his writing was illegible, he didn't know his numbers, and he never did his homework - half the time he didn't even remember his backpack. In fact, he hardly showed up for school at all, missing 27 days in less than two semesters. When he did show up he wore clothes two sizes too big and would often fall asleep in class. He was always hungry or tired, and at one point he managed to become infested with lice.

I sent home several letters to the mother to meet for conferences, and she would completely ignore them. When she finally did show up - unannounced - it was to inform me that I was to call the police if his father came within 50 yards of the school. It was then that she let me know that she was on parole for assault and "other things." I had never met a bona fide crack whore before, and she both fascinated and revolted me. I came to find out that the boy missed so much school because the mother would keep him home to clean the house and make her meals, or she would just let him sleep since he would be up all night while she and her friends partied and did drugs - when she wasn't in prison of course. She hadn't even bothered to send him to kindergarten. The boy's father, when he was in the picture, smacked the boy around. The father was in and out of prison on a rotating basis as well.

Just as I was filling out the paperwork for social services to take care of this situation, the grandmother called me to let me know that she now had custody of the boy. Her voice was weak and tired on the phone, and I was worried that the boy had gone from the frying pan into the fire. She asked me what sort of supplies the boy needed for school since she knew the mother had given him nothing. "The normal stuff," I said, "pencils, pencil sharpener, scissors, folders, but don't worry - anything you can't get for him I will gladly supply."

The next day the grandmother showed up at school. She had three absolutely enormous bags with her - holding enough school supplies for the entire class. My mouth dropped open as I looked in the bags at the array of bright colorful erasers, pencil boxes, pencils, folders - all the coolest supplies the kids could want. I told her it was too much, to take some home and keep it for the boy, but she said, "No Ms. Wose, you have done so much for the boy, please accept these so I can show my appreciation." I knew then that things were going be different.

He started reading. And writing - though it's still hard to decipher his words. He not only started liking math but actually began to excel at it. He never missed a day of school. He did his homework every night. His clothes fit him and were clean. Color came back to his face, he gained weight, and he started making friends. He became part of the class, not some ghost of a child who only showed up now and then.

I celebrated his every accomplishment with zeal. The class saw what I was doing and soon joined in, cheering every time he answered a question correctly, and encouraging him if he made a mistake. I pushed him to read, to not be afraid of making mistakes, to always do his best no matter what. He began raising his hand more and more each day. He started hugging me all the time, and asking me if he could help around the classroom. "I lov Ms Wose" I would find in his chicken scrawl on little bits of paper on my desk. He loved school now - everyday he told me how he loved school now.

Still, I was concerned. He was a slow reader at best and his spelling ability was nonexistent. The grandmother and I discussed his possible retention - she was worried that he was too old to repeat first grade. The boy was going on nine, it would be a shame to hold him back yet again - he had been held back enough. I told her we would see with his testing if he would move on. I didn't want him to struggle too much in second grade, but I knew that more than anything, this little boy needed a success in his life. I prayed the night before he took the first set of tests that would determine if he would be promoted.

He didn't pass the first round of tests. I called the grandmother to let her know. He didn't pass the follow-up tests. I called her again to let her know. I told her there were two more tests he could take - but we agreed that if he didn't pass the first one - that enough was enough - and we would retain him.

He took the third test.

He got a 98%.

He's going to second grade.

Today the grandmother showed up at school with a bouquet of flowers. She told me the boy picked them out. "Woses for Ms. Wose," he said. Then she hugged me tight and told me, "Ms. Wose, the boy talks about you constantly. He studies every night for you. He loves you with all his heart. If ever you doubted that you have made a difference, know that you have. You have
changed him forever. You have truly made a difference in his life. He will never, ever, forget you."

And I will never, ever, forget him either.

I made a difference!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lists of Stuff

I got this from Flounder. Thanks babe!

10 Favorites
Favorite Season: Fall
Favorite Color: purple
Favorite Time: early evening
Favorite Food: cake!
Favorite Drink: gin and tonic, extra lime
Favorite Ice Cream: hazelnut gelato
Favorite Place: Jersey Shore
Favorite Sport: Football
Favorite Actor: Robert DeNiro
Favorite Actress: Drew Barrymore

9 Currents
Current Feeling: relief
Current Drink: iced tea
Current Time: 6:30 pm
Current Show on TV: Generation Renovation
Current Mobile used: Cingular
Current Windows Open: Yahoo, Outlook, ebay
Current Underwear: oops...
Current Clothes: pink pajama bottoms, white tee shirt, pink UGG slippers
Current Thought: How much longer is this thing?

8 Firsts
First Nickname: Brookie
First Kiss: I honestly don't remember
First Crush: Richie H. - kindergarten
First Best Friend: Lori F.
First Vehicle I Drove: Datsun 510 - yellow exterior/green interior
First Job: babysitter
First Date: Jimmy C
First Pet: dogs named Sweetums and Sundance

7 Lasts
Last Drink: morning coffee
Last Kiss: my two year old nephew
Last Meal: onion soup my neighbor Mark brought me (no, he's not gay)
Last Web Site Visited: The Sydney Morning Herald
Last Movie Watched: In Her Shoes
Last Phone Call: my neighbor Mark
Last TV show Watched: Law and Order reruns

6 Have You Ever...
Have You Ever Broken the Law: yes
Have You Ever Been Drunk: yes
Have You Ever Kissed Someone You Didn't Know: yes
Have You Ever Been in the Middle/Close to Gunfire: yes
Have You Ever Skinny Dipped: yes
Have You Ever Broken Anyone's Heart: yes

5 Things
Things You Can Hear Right Now: the tv, my neighbors bringing in their groceries, a yacht docking outside, people barbecuing on the patio, my tapping fingers on the keyboard
Things On Your Bed: 4 pillows and a stuffed animal
Things You Ate Today: bagel, fruit, cheese, carrots, hummus
Things You Can't Live Without: friends, family, computer, bubble baths, candles
Things You Do When You Are Bored: I don't get bored

4 Places You Have Been Today
my bedroom
my bathroom
my kitchen
my living room

3 Things On Your Desk Right Now
iced tea

2 Choices
dog or cat
move or stay

1 Place You Want To Visit
Bora Bora

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Reason I Teach #4

This note was put on my desk today by one of my students. She got caught chewing gum in the auditorium by another teacher. I told her I would give her the rest of the day to show me good behavior, and if she did, I wouldn't make her flip her card*. Please remember I teach 1st grade. The spelling is always the best part.

I did not make her flip her card.

*In my classroom we have a color coded behavior chart. Green is good. Blue is warning. Yellow is note home. Pink is office referral. If students misbehave, they have to "flip their card" to the next color. It's devastating to them. I'm sure someday they will laugh at the fact that flipping their card to blue caused them weep uncontrollably in front of all of their classmates.