Last week my kiddos entered the library. Many had a mission. Some had no idea what they wanted. All* were eager as they sat on the steps of the tiny read aloud amphitheater. They waited, listening to the always repeated instructions to be quiet because of students being tutored in nooks and crannies. Slowly. Step by step, they were released.
D– grabs a Baby Mouse book.
K– is clutching a Rick Riordan graphic novel (who knew).
V– opens a book about India as D– asks, is that really how it looks?
M– has already checked out her book and is engrossed on the steps of the amphitheater.
S– rocks in the rocking chair with Harry Potter.
M– sits at the table reading a cookbook.
A– is looking for a book on Cinderella. Not a Cinderella book, a book on Cinderella.
This could be a post on how wonderful this tiny slice of my day felt. Or about the importance of library space and time. It could be about allowing choice. Or about what real readers look like. But this post is about one kiddo.
T– sits without a book on the step. I wander over to him. “I don’t want a book,” he replies matter-a-factly, to my query. I follow up with the usual round of questions. Nothing inspires him to try. He is my worry. He is sweet and smart. He has lots of friends, but he’s an outlier. In our daily community circle, we have a generalized question that most can respond to. Something like what’s your favorite color, food, movie, game, etc. He most often responds sweetly with “I don’t know.” I have yet to get his parent in to talk about his work. I am flummoxed. And every time I sit and reflect on student work, I see him as barely meeting expectations.
Recently, I sat with T– to talk about his writing. The two paragraphs, six lines, 65 words, were good. Right on track. This was the product of two weeks of nudging and coaching. I complimented him on what he did and what he could do next. He smiled. But he was done. He had no desire to continue on.
As I write this, I don’t have a solution. T– is the kid that haunts me because I know how this goes. Coaching him through a process moves him a little. With each nudge, he takes the requested step. But without the next nudge, there’s no movement. And I’m not always there for that push. I can’t be, and I shouldn’t be. It is so easy to give up. And I am sure that is what has happened over the years.
I will continue to nudge, offer another book, ask him another question, and judging by his behavior so far, he will continue to comply just enough to barely meet the expectation. I know the minute I walk away, he will drift off into another space.
In the end, it comes down to our relationship. I am T’s teacher, and he is doing what he has always done with teachers. But each day offers another opportunity for me. T– has a line in my plan book, making me accountable to his needs. A plan that consists of conversation and choice. And hopefully, he will bring me a little closer to what might inspire him to become a learner.