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If I am being honest, I have to admit that I have struggled with one specific grade 1 munchkin more than I have any other student in my current position. He is polite, hard-working, adorable, and nearly impossible to teach. I am not quick to throw in the towel on any students. I do believe all children can learn, even this little man. However, after a year-and-a-half, I am running out of options for how to teach him. I have tried everything in my repertoire of strategies for multiple learning styles. Just when I think we are getting somewhere, along comes Friday, and by Monday morning, it is gone. All gone.
Little Man is in the midst of a neuro eval at the nearby university, so I am hoping to soon have more information to guide my practice with him. Until then, I pray for patience and miracles. And I collect stories like this one....
The daily routines are quite solid with my little group of three first graders. They walk in, grab their things, which include a lap desk, a pencil, a white board, eraser and marker, their writing notebook, their warm up books, and their poetry book. They settle in and begin to warm up read as I take a running record with one student. We move into the lesson, which always starts with some phonics instruction. With most of my groups, this is my favorite part because the light bulbs just seem to flash brighter and brighter as little pieces to their reading puzzle begin to fall into place. My favorite part of my job. With this little group, however, this is not often the case. We have repeated some of the same phonics targets what feels like close to a thousand times now, and yet I still feel the need to put it back on the list for a day in the near future.
The conversation is slow and laborious. My teeth hurt from clenching them as I try with all my will to not blurt out the answers, followed with an exasperated, "WHY DON'T YOU GET IT?!?!?" Yet I am committed to wait time, no matter how intense the pressure in my head becomes. On this one particular day earlier this week, our chart had grown daily to now include three columns. Column 1 was a list of words using the -at spelling pattern. Column 2 was home to the -ay words. On the day I wanted to cry, but had to laugh, we were adding Column 3 to contain -an words.
When I am having students add words to our columns, I often turn it into a vocabulary game where I give clues to a word that will fit. For example, I might say, "When you go out to recess, you are going out to...." and someone jumps in to finish my sentence with the word, "PLAY" and they feel all proud and get to add the word to our chart. Well, Little Man, as I have said, struggles. He really struggles. So, as we were working on -an words, he was giving it his all when I said, "Right now you are a boy, but when you grow up you will be a...."
His eyes are rolling around, perusing the ceiling while he threw out a very convincing, deep-thinking, "Hmmmm...."
He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and the grin that exclaimed he KNEW IT! And he said,
No sweet, child. "I believe that when you grow up, you will be a MAN. Not a girl."
"Oh! Yeah - I knew that," he replied, per his usual coping motto.
And so, my work continues....