You don’t know me, but I’m an instructional coach that supports teachers. Today, I spent three hours with your teacher. I read her an excerpt from Todd Parr’s great book, “Teachers Rock!”
We read my favorite page, where he writes about teachers like us: “They love coming to school, and they make you love it, too!”
Then we got to the page where Todd Parr reminds us that “Teachers are always willing to help students in need,” and I used that quote as our springboard to read and learn more about how to use targeted, intensive small groups to help children who need to catch up in reading.
I asked your teacher, and every teacher, to write a quick “post-it note story” responding to the prompt “Let me tell you about (name)…” and to write about a student who is a struggling reader. She wrote about you, saying, “Jamarii is a non reader. Jamarii is a behavior problem.”
When I found this post-it note during clean-up, I had to write you. My young friend, I hope she left this professional learning experience knowing that you aren’t a bad kid. I hope she knows that you need care, love and great instruction that helps you grow.
Tomorrow, back in class, I hope she remembers that you might be frustrated and angry at school because you spend too much of your day doing stuff that’s “too hard;” or have boring, five-in-a-row days reading the same “books” copied in icky black-and-white, stapled-all-crazy, downloaded junk instead of real books; or need not just instruction but care, like a granola bar, or a smile, or a Band-Aid.
Jamarii, I am going to work so, so hard to make sure she sees your potential, that she finds a way to be patient. I bet she’s tired and stressed and wishes there was more support for her and for you. Today, she had Smarties and Tootsie Rolls, and we laughed, and I ended 10 minutes early. I tried to cajole and convince and appeal to her sense of what’s right, so that she heads into the classroom tomorrow feeling like “I’ve got this.”
Meet me halfway, buddy, if you can, by digging deep to listen as she tries this new way to teach you to read, but if you can’t—because I’m guessing you might be tired and stressed and needing more support, too—know that I’m working for you, kiddo.
And I’m blessed to know many, many folks out there rockin’ it for kids, Jamarii, and I hope you land in our classrooms some day, and you get those hugs and granola bars and the perfect dose of high expectations and care. I know you’re not a behavior problem, you’re a boy who needs support.
Jamarii, you’re only 5 or 6 or 7 years old, and I promise to keep the faith that we can create leaders and schools and teachers that do right by you. Your post-it note is going right on my bulletin board, and I will look at it every single day, think of you, and lift you up in my prayers, and in my work.
You aren’t a behavior problem, you’re a kid, and my job—our job!—is to help students in need. After all, Todd Parr said so! So count on me.
And here’s some BIG LOVE to teachers out there who spend their days with Jamarii and other kids like him—please take care of you so you can keep doing this big important work! I’m choosing hope, instead of tears and anger, and doubling my efforts.