“I don’t want to,” she said.
A familiar petulant look, downcast eyes and protruding lower lip, came over her face. She began pulling her hair over her forehead, trying to hide.
I sighed, trying to retain my patience. I’ve been working with this student since the fall when she was diagnosed with dyslexia. In an effort to expedite her progress, she has two intervention sessions on most days. She sees the special education teacher every day and I see her at least three times a week to practice and reinforce what she is learning in special ed. She reads poems and books on topics that interest her. She’s written poems and short paragraphs about ballet, her passion. She’s been making nice progress.
Yesterday she was working on an acrostic poem for the word “ballet.” She didn’t have any trouble coming up with single words for each letter. But then I reminded her that poets use descriptive words to express their feelings and create images. “Let’s think of ways to describe the barre,” I suggested.
“I like it the way it is.”
I counted to ten. I knew I wouldn’t accomplish anything by engaging in a power struggle with this student, but one of our objectives is to help her learn to be more open-minded and persistent.
I tried one more time. “Let’s look at a poem in your folder and see how Irene Latham describes the “Farm Fresh Eggs.”
Tears began to well up in her eyes. That was my cue that we were finished. As I walked her back to her classroom, I was calm and said we’d take another look at the poem tomorrow. She shrugged, but said goodbye as she went back to her class.
She isn’t this uncooperative too often, but it has happened often enough to know that we might not achieve the goals we set for her at her PPT in October. Her parents and their advocate were insistent that we say what reading level she would achieve by her annual review next fall. We tried to explain that our goal was to have her catch up to grade level expectations as quickly as possible, but there were too many variables to make any kind of prediction about how long it would take to get her there. They were skeptical, but gave us the benefit of the doubt.
As a parent, I understand their worry and desire to have her performing at grade level sooner rather than later. But I also understand that pushing her too hard won’t help her reach this goal. It could undermine our efforts. Everyone is doing everything they can to support this student, providing her with appropriate instruction, modifications, and accommodations. We should be celebrating her every accomplishment, no matter how insignificant it may seem. She will get there in the end. It may just take a little longer for her. Things take the time they take.
Thank you to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, Beth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.