Wednesday, July 28

The Shyest Student is now "Loud and Proud"

This morning when I checked email I found this…

Hi Mrs. E.!  I hope you are having a fun summer.  Mine has been lots of fun so far.  I am at camp with all of my friends.  I bought a few Carol Marsh books. They are so good.  Check out the program my library is doing this summer.  I get to enter in a raffle every time I read for 6 hours.  The prizes are really cool.  I hope I win one. 

At first glance, it may appear to be a chatty little piece of correspondence, but it is so much more.  This is written by a student going into fourth grade. She was in my class last year and will be my student again in the fall due to looping.  She is extraordinary in many ways.

To begin with, she may be the shyest student I have ever seen.  For many years at our school, she did not even speak!  Eventually, she began to use a thumbs up or thumbs down to communicate, and with patience, began to speak in a whisper in her classrooms.  I was worried when I found out she would be in my class.  I have an “over –the-top” personality and I was concerned my enthusiasm and energy would intimidate her.

When she entered my classroom for our traditional “Hello Day,” she smiled at me, but would not move from behind her dad. I tried to be incredibly sensitive and not ask her anything but yes or no questions. 

As we moved through the fall, she became more and more comfortable with me.  She even began to participate and slowly revealed the most amazing sense of humor.  This kid was funny!  Granted there were times when I had to lip-read in order to figure out what she was saying, but each day we worked on speaking “loud and proud!” 

Not only did I discover how funny she was, but I uncovered an amazing intelligence.  She totally embraced the Reader’s Workshop approach and could not read enough books.  I had trouble keeping up with her.  Our one-on-one conferences were stimulating and invigorating.  Her parents could not believe how much she was reading and asking for books.  At home, she created a giant poster board that reflected all of the reading strategies I was teaching her.  She and her parents made a special trip to bring it to me.  She included verbatim many phrases I use. This wasn't an assignment; she did it on her own.

Our journey together was rewarding for me because I learned to adjust my teaching style and approach to help a student.  I didn’t change who I was (like I could ever be a soft-spoken, slow moving, graceful gal), but I learned to modify and recognize what a student needed to help her succeed.

I’m proud of both of us for the growth we showed last year.  I can’t wait to see what we learn this year.  

Her email was loud and proud!


Paul Bogush said...

That is awesome! Your sense of pride in your great job comes through loud and proud also!

Sherri said...

I LOVE this! I work with small groups of K-5 kids on social skills, and have had several students who just don't talk. Breaking through to them somehow, over the course of 12-15 weeks, always feels SO good!

Nancy Hniedziejko (Nancy Ehrlich) said...

Thanks for the comments. She is an amazing kid who really helped my self-awareness. Never too late to start learning. Thanks again for writing!

Hen Jen said...

wow, what a wonderful, encouraging email to receive!

My bonus student does not talk, I've known him since he was 4 and it took years to get more than just nods from him. He still rarely talks to adults, except his family, but I really treasure each full sentence I get from him.

Sarah said...

How wonderful! I love that you now have trouble "keeping up with her" :).