Looking for the Story

Slice of Life #2

Wading into SOL, I am already enjoying little moments of meditating. I am thinking about what to write about.  I’m in my car, or at my school desk, or trying to get home earlier than usual, and paying more attention.

I have recently noticed that, with any kid or situation at school, there’s always more to the story.  There’s the apparent and then there’s the rest of the story…


Today I was able to meet with the school psychologist, Erik, and get a bit more of the story on a student in reading intervention with me.  I didn’t have access to the previous testing records and so Erik looked at files to fill me in.

After sympathizing with Erick’s case of the designer virus, I got to sit still and just talk and think about one student, instead of teaching five at a time and shuffling books and papers automatically to have the next four come in.  Just think about J.  remembering his exuberance.   The way he blurts things out and sometimes get’s stuck, “He, he, he…”

Remembering how proud I was of him when I gave benchmarks to incoming first graders who had been with me half of kindergarten.  J. had read over the summer and had no summer reading loss, unlike the other nine children in those groups.  Yet, now, we have taught levels D and E and doubled back to D and E and we’re ready to start F, but J. is flagging.  He refuses to categorize – as in putting words in a two column to match rimes.  He seems overwhelmed by any kind of word work.  And that is the shortest piece of an LLI lesson.

Erick told me that J. had a full assessment at the end of kindergarten and did not qualify for special education, with mostly average written in on results.  Numbers would have been nice to say what end of average.  And speech and occupational therapy screenings were done.  Supportive Mom who has tried since preschool to learn best ways to help her son.

I had the luxury, not only of sitting still, but thinking aloud with someone I trust. Erick listening as I asked if perhaps — along with the attention difficulties — J. is one of those kids, boys especially, who will grow into the reading skills.  Is it simply developmental?  Will he get it when he’s older?  I’ve seen late first grade boys who really struggled in late kindergarten just take off.

Thankfully, J’s social behavior in the classroom is improving rapidly now that he sees the school counselor.  Somebody to listen to him.  And not interrupt to get on with the lesson.  Someone who knows how to use games to show him how to relate to teachers and peers.  Pure gold.

“His classroom teacher, Ms. S. is putting in paperwork for retention,” I explained to Erick. “She says that the few good grades he gets are when the work is modified a great deal, like two math problems instead of the page. Erik, I just can’t see how another year in first grade is really the answer.  But I’m worried, because I don’t see J. growing.  We seem to have hit a plateau — again.”

Erick thought and then offered a solution.  We’ll do the last SST of the year in May and make an assessment plan to retest him within the first 30 days of grade two.  Meanwhile, teacher and I will observe and note as much as we can that may be helpful in solving the J. puzzle.  I liked that.  It made sense.

And I got a bit of sympathy too, not because I also suffered the 3-week designer virus, but because it is so hard to work up close daily with a kid you really like — one you see sparks of brilliance and joy in — and yet not see the reading and writing piece really work.  The patterns not getting recorded?  Or remembered?  The anxiety of more information coming in than he can sort?  The history of feeling lost in kindergarten and withdrawing from the school game?  “Well, if you could fix every kid you teach, I’d be out of a job!” laughed Erick.

I resolve not let the dynamics of this over-crowded first grade group keep me from taking more reading records and making observations of J.

And, I felt better to know I’m not alone.  There’s a story in here, to be continued.  The J. story of how we learned how to best support him. The J. story of how he kept his love of story and his wild observations about books intact, while he struggles with school.





3 thoughts on “Looking for the Story”

  1. I enjoyed reading you had someone to talk to about J and found comfort in a plan for his future. However, while J struggles you’ve found some of his gifts to enjoy – hang on to that during your journey.

  2. Those students that are such puzzles are so difficult to figure out. Good for you making a plan to continue to study and try to really find out the story.

  3. I can feel your concern for J come across in writing. We all have these kids-the ones who we think about in the grocery store, the ones we lose sleep over, the ones we puzzle over. I’m glad that you had some extended time to think about how to help him.

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