Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How do we grant this wish?

 The day before the snowstorm I was working one on one with an upper grade student. I was challenging him through the type of work I was giving him and in return he would frequently give me dramatic, "You are killing me! I'll never survive" quotes. Despite his complaints I could see his effort coming through. He shouldn't have been able to perform as well as he was- and yet he was working extremely hard to get answer my questions. Of course, he was frantically trying to hide all of his academic struggle behind his overly dramatic expression of how I was the meanest teacher ever.
As we neared the end and I was packing up my things he said, "If I could have any super power do you know what it would be?"
"What?" I replied, barely paying attention because I was sure it would be to fly away from me and/or school itself. Or maybe become the Hulk and then really show me what he thought of my assignments.
"To read. I want to be able to read anything!" He proclaimed the words with the same romantic longing as I might say I want to fly anywhere in the world. As though he believed it wouldn't be possible to achieve but he wanted to dream anyway.
"A lot of kids have that superpower," he went on. "I don't know why I don't. I can't even read easy books. I try but they are too hard for me."

What do you say to that? How do you reply? 

That superpower wish has haunted me for a week now. This child's deep desire to read (read everything!). This is why I got into special education- to help children find the super powers hidden inside them. On paper he is a child we could find excuses for why he's not achieving. We can shake our heads, say isn't it a shame he's not on grade level, and just move on. But we can't. It's our job to give our students the super power of reading. It's what we've been hired to do. So now we need to figure out how to get him there.

So how do we help him realize what he can do and give him the skills to do it? How do we give him a boost up and help him overcome some his innate struggles?  What can we do that hasn't already been done? I know we can get him there. Now we just need to figure out how.


Frances Lieb said...

I think you might begin by talking about the super powers he does have. How did he get them? Did some come easily? Did some require that he work and practice (like riding a bike)? Sometimes super powers require small steps--small attainable goals. We celebrate these as we reach them. When the going gets tough, that's when a teacher can help. Having a teacher to help is like getting an extra life in video games.

Also, as your student is working to gain his super power of reading, please remind him that he is not alone. There are many other students who are having to work extra hard to learn to read. There are many adults who have also struggled with reading--some still do. The advantage your student has over all of these other people is that he sees reading as a SUPER POWER. He respects reading and really wants to read. He has set his goal; fortunately he has an extraordinary teacher to help him.

organized chaos said...

Frances, how I miss working with you! This is beautiful advice. I'll let you know how it goes!