My first grade class had finally gotten into a groove of sorts. This really meant that no one was trying to run out and most of the kids stayed in their chairs. You know, as opposed to crawling under them just to mess with me.
It was 2001 and I was in my first year of teaching.
Each and every day brought new challenges from the students, administration, fellow teachers, and the students’ parents. I was still a couple of years away from pulling off the role of confident teacher.
This boy was brought into my classroom and I was told that he was my new student. I knew this kid from the other class. He was always in trouble and forever acting out. What was he now doing in my room?
Then I was told someone realized he was just as gifted as the rest of my class and didn’t belong in the other one.
Translation: The other teacher who had a bigger voice than mine didn’t want the behaviors in her room anymore.
And so he was given a desk and work to do.
Of course he didn’t do much of it. He smiled at me and just went about ignoring everything else. I will never forget the image of one of my teacher friends walking in and seeing him standing on a chair waving our American flag.
At least he was patriotic.
But he did so many things that didn’t make sense or has us all give him the side eye. I just couldn’t figure him out. He didn’t help that this particular students was not one for conversation.
The year carried on.
One day, he came up to me with his notebook and asked me to give him math problems. Sure no problem. Anything to keep this kid in his seat. Minutes later, he had solved them all correctly. I gave him more and he solved them quickly. It became our thing. He really liked math and I started to see something spark in him.
He was noticing his own potential.
Sure he would randomly put on headphones and dance even though they weren’t connected to anything but he was starting to pay attention.
A teacher’s dream, really.
At this point, some higher ups were talking about a possible special education setting for him. Each time they observed, he didn’t quite fit in. Things were very different years ago. People were quick to want to label without trying other strategies. The student’s mom said she believed in him getting help but not if that was not the right setting. I told her to give me time.
He started to read more in class and he tried his best in writing. The math notebook kept going.
This kid did not go to special services that year. His grades went up and although not perfect, he was where he needed to be.
Before we said our end of year goodbyes, he gave me a paper that said, “you give me good life”.
I don’t know what happened to him. He left our school after that year. Perhaps he went on to success. Maybe he went the other way. It could have been both.
What I do know is that each child has so much to be found from within.
Thank you for reading! If you like this, please head over to Amazon and purchase a copy of the newly released, Will Work For Apples another book in the NYT best selling anthology series by Jenn Mann. This is a collection of 39 essays that celebrate the joy and dedication that teachers bring to education. You can find my essay on chapter 23! Get copies for all the incredible teachers in your life!