Monday, May 23, 2011

So Worth It!

You know this kid.  He
~ grumbles about anything that looks like 'work',
~ takes forever to get supplies out of his cubicle,
~calls out across class to his buddy about what's on his mind,
~ slams his exercise book on the table with grunts of "I don't get this" or "whadda we got to learn that for?"
~runs when he's supposed to walk,
~ and is quick to find fault in any situation and  especially with what you're trying to do.

 He regularly tries your patience!

Last week I watched that kid race toward me across the grass with a piece of litter in his outstretched hand and I almost cried thinking our school year together is almost over.

From the first day of school, Paul (not his real name) gave me grief and deflected any attempts I made to develop our relationship. He pushed past me as fast as he could if I tried to meet and greet students at the door.  He pulled away from covert attempts at physical contact or would act like my hand was instant acid if I happened to ruffle his hair or give him a pat on the shoulder! He interrupted me if I was conferencing with others yet would often do things during his time with me that disrupted the flow.

He resented rules - even those developed together with his classmates. If he was ready first, why not be allowed to leave the classroom first rather than wait for his bus-line in class?

He resisted actually writing anything on paper - letters or numbers. Comments such as "I'm gonna get it wrong" or "You're not going to like it" gave me some sense of why he was SO reluctant and frustrated.  Getting samples of work required a tightrope walk of balancing praise given for even a tiny step in the right direction and setting lines down in the sand that were met with consistently applied consequences.

We negotiated some days; I needed him to demonstrate understanding of concepts being covered and he needed some sense of control.  He wanted breaks from work  and I wanted to help him see that he could do the work! So we might end up with:

"Show me  237 thousandths in four different ways and you can build with the tub of blocks for five minutes at the end of class."

Early in the fall I realized Paul much preferred being outdoors.  In addition to racing at lunch time to get outside (even in our cold winter temperatures!), I knew a great deal  of his time after-school was spent in the lanes or woods near his home. I knew from our conversations he traversed much of the surrounding area on bike and/or ski-doo.  Our BookTalks revealed a preference for reading informational texts and I tried to find material related to his interests.

He became fascinated with learning about how the Beothuk (an extinct Aboriginal people native to our island province) lived.  He read widely, and sometimes deeply, about animals, hunting methods, building methods and such.  Knowing things like how to set slips for rabbits himself, and seeing the materials firsthand they would have used  no doubt helped him make connections to these texts.  When we began our projects and planned what to do, it was Paul who offered to bring in birch bark to build mamateeks.
It was Paul who rebuilt the deer fence when the evergreen needles dropped to the bottom of the cardboard display box.  And it was Paul who read the material to a group member who struggles to read at grade level.

Over the year I often wondered if I was on the right track with him; if I was making any headway. I began to see smiles more often but we all recognize smiles are not all that's necessary.  I began to feel ground had been made up when he worked to polish his writing for various texts needed in his Heritage Fair project.  He was willing (not always cheerfully but with much less resistance!) to spend the time revising to have it say and look like what he had pictured in his mind. " Do you think I have a chance of getting through [to the Regional Fair], Miss?"

Last week it was Paul's suggestion to go outside and do a 'spring-cleaning' of the school grounds. Work!  It was Paul who volunteered to hand out the bags. Teamwork! And it was Paul who wanted to be in my company as we traipsed along the fence looking for debris. BONUS!

It's days like that that remind me of why I wanted to be a teacher and why the tougher days are worth it.
'Cuz Paul's worth it.

And so are all the rest! : )

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