I came into my second summer as a Literacy Leader with much more confidence than in my first. I was determined to have a well-structured and fun class, and to apply all the new information I learned at staff training to my interactions with my scholars. However, my confidence was quickly shaken by my experience with one particular scholar. This scholar was very prone to breakdowns, and would not read or do activities with the class. I struggled in the beginning of the summer to get him to join the reading circle, and to calm him down once something had upset him. I became frustrated, feeling like he was not learning anything.
One day, he came into class much calmer, sat in the reading circle with the class, and followed along with the story. Every time I asked a comprehension question, he raised his hand and gave accurate, detailed, and creative answers. He interacted well with his peers and seemed to be enjoying himself. I was stunned. In a day, he had gone from my biggest challenge to my star student. I tried and tried to identify what exactly caused him to have such a great day, but I could never quite figure it out. The following day, his stellar behavior was gone as just as fast as it had shown up, much to my dismay . From then on, it was a matter of chance; one day he would cry most of the time and not complete any activities, and the next he would be thoughtful, engaged, and funny. There wasn’t a pattern, which frustrated me a lot at first, but I ended up learning a great deal from him.
He showed me how easily a child’s talents can be overlooked when you are only focused on their behavior. Once I realized how advanced and creative he was, I made a much greater effort to look for his strengths and encourage them, rather than focusing on his breakdowns. I also saw just how difficult it is for children to be successful academically when they are dealing with emotional issues or hardships outside of the classroom. This scholar was absolutely brilliant, but his struggle to control his emotions greatly interfered with his ability to learn. Working with him has made me look at education in a much more holistic way. I now realize how many prerequisites there are for children being able to learn in a classroom and how much careful attention is required to understand and support a child’s academic and emotional growth.