Friday, November 9, 2007

Can I teach you to read?

One of my froglets (frogblog authors) spent today in the office for the second day in a row. I was shocked to see him sitting there. Yesterday was one thing, but to be back already by 10am? Did an entire day in the office not seem miserable the first time?

I was sure his behavior warranted an office visit. Lately we've witnessed his frustration come out through kicking chairs, throwing anything in his way, and banging his head against the door. He goes out of his way to refuse to do whatever we ask and we've been banging our own heads against the wall trying to figure out what to do with this kiddo who refuses to hold a reading book.

I was startled to hear him crying and I went over to talk to him. I tried asking him open ended questions and didn't get anywhere. So I tried,
"thumbs up or down, do you know why you are here?
thumbs up.
Did you listen to your teacher?
thumbs down
Are you angry?
thumbs up
Are you sad?
thumbs up
We went through this for a bit before I asked him to tell me what he is good at. No response. Ok, are you good at art?
thumbs down
are you good at reading?
thumbs down
are you a good friend.
Head nods and eyes light up
are you good at listening to stories and talking about them?
fast head nodding
are you good at art?
more head nodding.

Can I help you? I finally asked him, looking straight into his big brown eyes. "You are so good at all of those things. I know you feel like you are not good at reading. Can I help you be better?"
Head shake, no.
"Do you know my secret?" I asked, "My secret that I didn't learn to read until I was in third grade? My mom found me a special teacher, and that teacher was our principal."
He nodded and I realized I'd already used this one before. Oops. New tactic.
"Do you know that I love to teach kids to read?"
No response.
"Do you know that it is my job to teach kids to read? I went to school and I studied and I read books at night so that I can teach kids how to read?"
Big brown eyes looking at me.
"Do you know what I really love to do? I love to work with kids who have trouble with reading. That's my job. It is ok when kids have trouble with reading, they might just need someone like me to help them."
Head starting to nod.
"Can I teach you to read?"
Head nodding vigorously
"I would like that a lot. But you know what, we have to be a team. If I'm going to teach you I need you to help. You need to look at the book."
Head shaking, no

"I can't open up your brain and make it read, so we'll have to be a team. Your job is to look at the book, point to the words, and follow my directions. Can you do that?"
head shaking no- then slight change to a nod

"If you can do those things than I can help you learn to read. Can we be a team?"
Head nodding, slowly, unsure, then vigorously as a smile breaks out on his face.

"We'll be a team. I'll do my job, you do yours. Let's shake on it."

Later I came back, asked if we were still going to be a reading team, and decided we would meet every day, just the two of us in my office to do some hard work. We can do this as long as he is ready to be a team. This means he'll have to follow directions, listen to his teacher, and keep his hands and feet to himself.

This isn't exactly the stern lectures I want kids to get in the office. But something got to me today. The look of loss on his face, the fact that even though he is only in first grade we're already losing him to his anger, or the fact that it was the 2nd day in a row he was sitting in the office. He's a great kid with a big smile when he lets you see it. We just have to make sure he feels confident enough to show it and not find his confidence through being the problem child in the class.

We'll see how this goes. Now I just hope I can live up to teaching him to read. After staring into his eyes today I'm terrified I'll let him down.

1 comment:

Suzanne G. said...

Wow, it's been a while since I read your blog (computer got fried)and this is such an amazing post, I want to hug you! You handled this so well. I know what it is to lose kids to anger, I also know that the power of the human spirit and the resiliency of the soul is not to be underestimated. The fact is that you can never know how a child will come out. Some hugs last forever, so do some words of encouragement. You are an angel to this child.