Friday, May 28, 2010

Them Be Fightin' Words

Mouse and Emma are in the back seat drawing on our way to Target. Emma is drawing a picture of herself between Mouse and their cousin, the Kowabunga Kid. Mouse is doing her own rendition. Emma keeps making 'mistakes' on Mouse's portrait: a long pointy nose, too large lips, and -- evidently the deal breaker for Mouse-- one enormous green shoe.

"Do that again and I'll draw you with a penis."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ready, Set, Grade One!

"I expect you all to get five stars today. Remember, you're going to be in first grade soon and first graders know how to control their voices, control their bodies and work hard."

Jamal's hand shoots into the air. He looks worried.

"You have a question?"

"Yeah. Will you be coming with us to first grade? 'Cause we don't even know where the room is."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Low Tech

Emma marches through the kitchen carrying a broomstick with a flag mounted on the end. Mouse follows with a deceptively heavy purple velvet bag. The two go out the back door and head for the climber from which Emma waves her flag in the direction of the Keegan backyard. Mouse joins in, shaking her velvet bag out the club house window. The clatter of a few dozen marbles fills the air.

Seconds later a voice calls from over the fence. "Can you play?"

Who needs a phone?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One Step Forward, One Step Back

***all names are changed except my own***

I knew from the moment I met Tyrone that he was slippery. For one, the child could barely stay in a chair. Five seconds was all he needed to toss his pencil skyward, crawl under the desk to fetch it and, en route, untie his neighbour's shoes. Perceptive, charming, happy and infuriating: all these things were Tyrone. Unfortunately 'literate' did not rank among them.

Now you may be thinking, he's five: since when is reading an expectation at such an age? It is and it isn't. No one expects the average kindergartener to be reading Harry Potter, but after nine months of being drilled on the alphabet and each letter's respective sound, most can decode a three-letter word that follows the basic phonemic rules. While I suspected Tyrone was still struggling, I couldn't be sure. Were his inaccurate responses due to inattention? Impulsivity? Poor phonemic awareness? Impaired memory? All of the above? Lucky for both of us, my exams finished last week and I had a sudden influx of something more precious than gold: time. I offered to work with Tyrone one-on-one to which the classroom teacher agreed. This moved Tyrone from Tier 2 up to Tier 3 intervention: one step closer to special education.

During our first session I quizzed Tyrone on his letter names and sounds. His score: 10 out of 26. I was stunned. How was this possible? I suspected difficulties, but nothing this tragic. He'd almost slipped through my fingers. Almost. When Mouse was one-year-old she nearly fell out a window at the Chateau de Chillon. I'd been sitting beside her at the time and had looked away. Clearly there was a grave difference between potential illiteracy and that moment, but they shared a similar element: my own culpability. Mouse didn't fall; neither did Tyrone. My judgement, however, would be honed forever by both incidents.

Tyrone and I have had three sessions and already he's showing improvement. We'll continue until next Wednesday when I'll have to bid all my Echo's good-bye. It will be a tough day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tiers and Tears

I lost a student yesterday in the best way possible: he didn't need me anymore. According to his classroom teacher, Jacob's DIBELS scores were well into the safety zone meaning he no longer needed Tier 2 intervention: me. When we broke the news to him, his eyes got shiny and full.

"But I still want to come with you."

I said he could come one last time and his eyes cleared. Minutes later, quite on purpose, Jacob scrawled the worst letters of his kindergarten life into his Fundations workbook. I could hardly believe my eyes. He was trying to throw the game, wielding the only power he had left. The thing of it was, it was too late. He couldn't fool anyone. He'd been writing clearly and reading for weeks. The poor kid had mistaken his victory parade for overtime: his last chance to prove me wrong.

When we got back to class I gave him his workbook and a certificate I had made. "I'm really going to miss you, Jacob."

"Me, too." He gave me a hip-crushing hug and headed for his cubby to put away his things. From across the room I watched him wipe his eyes.

On my way out of class he hugged me twice more.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Off Task

"Mrs. Melissa?"

Marques calls out to me from his seat. The rest of the Echos are busy writing their capital C's.

"Marques, where is your hand supposed to be?"

"Oh!" He raises his hand.

"Yes, Marques."

"Can you eat your necklace?"


"Ah, man! That's too bad." He looks truly disappointed for me. I wonder if he would have asked for a bite if I'd said yes.

"Back to work now, Marques."