Thursday, February 05, 2015

teachers: opening a mind and touching a heart

One might think that three children, born within three minutes of each other, would have very similar personalities or traits.


But our trio couldn't be more different from one another.


There's William, who is very athletic and all-things military-obsessed.  He has a vivid imagination and although Tresiam has largely disappeared, he introduced me to three new imaginary friends, just yesterday.  He is intrigued by physical fitness and nary a day passes, that he isn't out running laps around our driveway,  dropping to the ground to pound out some push-ups, before showing off his little biceps and "six-pack."


He is popular with the kids in his grade, and loves to be funny. He is also a very gifted writer, concocting the most detailed and engaging stories. His teacher has reached out to me on several occasions, including earlier today, to express how impressed she is with his writing, and urging that if he doesn't have a journal at home - that he begin keeping one.   He says he wants a blog.


There's Elizabeth, who is very energetic and (still) all-things bunny-obsessed.  She is an outstanding artist, crafting things out of whatever she can find, all the time.  Without my borderline obsessive compulsive disorder of purging our house once a month of anything not bolted down, I've no doubt the floor of her room would be concealed beneath boxes, paper, and random trash things she's picked up from who-knows-where.  She never stops moving, and scares me with her daring try-anything personality.  Hence, the helmet.


Elizabeth has a kind heart (most of the time) and according to her teacher, gets along with everyone in her class. While most of the girls her age have settled in to cliques, she has somehow transected all of them - and is good friends with both girls and boys, alike. Elizabeth has challenges with reading, and having been diagnosed with a learning disability myself when I was her age - I try to be very sensitive, and yet encouraging that she will totally conquer this, one day.  She wants to live in Hawaii, surf, make art, and drive a lime green jeep.


There's Carolyn, who is the most quiet and introverted of the triplets.  She loves all living things - including worms and spiders and frogs and dogs, and would never dream of intentionally stepping on an ant.  She loves to read, and read and read, and would be perfectly content to spend a day with a book.  But because I try to encourage her to do other things, she also enjoys painting, and writing, and playing quietly with little figurines.


Carolyn does not have the same social butterfly gene that her siblings do; and even during free time at school, she is much more content to read than interact with other children. Her teachers - since first grade - have reached out to me with concern that she may have an attention deficit disorder. More and more, I've begun to think that her desire to always have her nose in a book (and thus, check out of the world around her), is some kind of defense mechanism.  My suspicion is that it has something to do with her quiet personality, coupled with being the tallest child in her class (99th percentile). When she grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian and librarian. She once wanted children, but now worries they may want her to run around and play - and she'd rather stay inside and read.


Earlier this week, Carolyn's teacher reached out to me that she is very worried about her lack of engagement in class.  When I wrote her back and told her that we've talked to the pediatrician and will be seeing a counselor soon, I also explained that Carolyn has been hypersensitive to the behavior of other girls, and I don't think that she is yet equipped to deal with what she perceives to be social rejection.  I'm fairly confident this too shall pass. But I'm also remembering how difficult it was at her age - - especially as I was in fifth grade and middle school - - and I shudder at the memory of how awful kids can be.

Her teacher responded to me today and fully agrees that there may be some self-esteem issues at play.  She then proposed that to help with the self-esteem issues, she will be initiating an effort where Carolyn will work with first and second graders, several times a week, on their reading.  Today, this wonderful teacher pulled my daughter aside and said, "I've selected you to help the younger children because you are such a good reader and have such a gentle heart, I think you'll be the perfect person to help them improve their reading skills."

I don't want to blow this out of proportion, but I'm fairly confident, this one gesture by her amazing teacher, will alter my daughter's life.  When I was in seventh grade, my Special Ed teacher told me, "You have so much potential - yet to be tapped." And I believed her.  So my response to Carolyn's teacher today, included a message along the lines of, "Thank you for your eyes in SEEING that there was an issue here; and for your heart in CARING enough to reach out to me and facilitate a change."

Good teachers are angels on earth. 

When Carolyn got off the bus today, she was so flattered - and flabbergasted - she didn't know what to do.  She excitedly explained to me what would be happening.


It would be HER choice to select two other children from her class, to accompany her to the Reading Pod, where they would sit and work with first and second graders for 30 minutes, three times per week. Tonight it began to sink in, the full breadth of her responsibility, and she began to get nervous.  


Fortunately, she has a little brother who is more than happily willing to help her prepare.