Celebrate this Week with Ruth Ayers is a ritual that I look forward to and for all week. This process didn’t come naturally. I am one who tends to focus on the student I don’t reach, rather than the student I do. So thank you Ruth for making me more attuned to celebrations, big and small. Read more celebrations here.
Today I celebrate possibilities.
“B” loves to read. It’s her passion. Her Genius Hour project is a to find out why do some kids not like to read. She researches, reads and takes notes. With each new finding she reports to me:
Mrs. Harmatz did you know…
…some kids’ brains develop differently and they have learning disabiiities
…40% of students struggle to read
…if a student is not reading on grade level by third grade, they may never catch up. Mrs. Harmatz my brother is in 3rd grade!
But Mrs. Harmatz there are strategies I’ve found strategies!
…if you read aloud to your child
…if you have them write emails
…if you have them read books they love and then talk about the characters and their motivations
I have strategies Mrs. Harmatz!
Her passion is huge.
She tells me, I love to read about strategies to help kids learn to read.
I tell her, you love to read anything and everything.
I tell her, you need to share your learning.
She tells me, I want to be a teacher, Mrs. Harmatz.
It’s not hard to celebrate this student and her passion and hope she brings.
Kind, hard working, inquisitive, and the ability to do the right thing when it wasn’t an easy choice are the qualities that come to mind when I think of this former student. He was in the 60%, a reader. I was not surprised to hear this week he is applying to college, and seeking a recommendation for his application to Harvard. Regardless of whether or not he gets accepted, this is huge. I celebrate this student who goes big. Who reaches to places that I would not have dared as a 17-year old. For him there are no limits.
“S” is struggling. His life is difficult. He has failed academically his entire life. He’s in that 40% that “B” is trying to understand. If I was to put a label on his disability I’d say dyslexic. But it’s not just that, there are other things that are in his way. Not sure what exactly, but we keep trying to find a way, “a strategy” to reach him. If I were to label the other part of his problem I’d say fear. Trying is scary. Why try and fail, again. He’s become an expert at trying for a little while and then giving up. Teachers get worn out, they have a whole classroom other than him. He’s learned that. A neat way to get around the painful process of trying. On Thursday we tried again. We created a plan and got what I thought was buy in. He seemed excited, but the day one results were far less than I’d hoped for. Day two, I prompted a bit more and there was some improvement. While it is still far from what I know he can do, the improvement is there. I celebrate this student’s tiny step towards trying.
A former student, now a seventh grader, stopped by on Wednesday. In fifth grade she was the poster girl for “YET.” Smart, sensitive, and learning disabled. She is in the 40% who struggle. I remember her saying, “reading is so hard, Mrs. Harmatz.” And it wasn’t just reading. Writing, and math were very hard. But she worked and she improved, but by the end of fifth grade she wasn’t there, yet. She gave one of our culmination speeches that year and in it she said, “reading is like a puzzle — you just have to put the pieces together.” This former student handed us a piece of writing on Wednesday that was shattering in content and form.Those pieces are clearly coming together, beautifully. Her YET is becoming NOW. I celebrate this student who has worked hard, been brave, and beaten the odds. She gives me hope for “S.”
It’s easy to see the bright futures for those in the 60%. But what about the 40%. The ones that might not catch up. There are times when it doesn’t seem possible. The road blocks are too big, too difficult to overcome. But when a former student comes back and shows you that yes it can be done, how can I doubt, or stop believing in possibilities, or stop trying. Today I’m learning from and looking up to my students who take take scary steps, have passion and belief, work hard against the odds, and dream big.