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Friday, February 16, 2018

February 14, 2018. St Valentine's Day. Ash Wednesday. School Shooting.

I spent my workday yesterday in an elementary school, accompanying university students observing elementary education.

We are guests and observers and it is our job to observe. We are not supposed to interact with the class or disrupt the routine.

The teacher I was observing is very good. On task, speaks clearly, gets results. I've observed her before. I never saw any need to interfere with her class. She's a good teacher.

By chance, I was seated, in my little kiddie chair, next to a boy who was not complying with instructions. The teacher had given very explicit instructions on the assignment. This boy was tossing items about, and, in this random mini kiddie category 3 maelstrom of activity, he was not performing, even just by chance, a single action that met any of the teacher's demands.

Hmph. Trouble maker. I found myself disliking the kid.

Then I said to myself, wait. Is there a reason all the other kids around him are performing on task and he is certainly active, but not doing a single thing this great teacher asked him to do?

and then I realized.

He. Can't. Read.

I watched more closely. My thought was verified. He was taking out his book and accompanying tools, as instructed, he just had *no idea* what to do with all this paraphernalia of reading: book, pages, pencil, etc.

I couldn't be passive. I tried, ever so subtly, beneath the teacher's radar, to help this boy.

My little nudges and prods and carefully rationed smiles and eye contact got him a bit on task.

He started doing as instructed -- writing letters -- and then I realized. He's dyslexic.

He couldn't obey lines, or maybe even see them. He couldn't distinguish "above the line" like an h, or below the line, like a p. He couldn't distinguish belly in front, like a b, or heinie in back, like a d.

Oh my God. He's just like me. When I was his age, I was dyslexic. I couldn't read. I goofed off. Teachers hated me.

And more. Something about his hair suggested to me that he was nobody's priority. An attentive parent would not send a boy to school with that hair.

Not just he's dyslexic, but he needs positive feedback. So I began to make longer eye contact, and smile, and make little approving sounds, all the while trying not to be noticed, trying not to rouse complaint.

Within the very brief amount of time I was in this boy's life, I became someone he turned to, over and over, to receive positive feedback through eye contact. He looked at me, as if wringing my eyes for attention and approval.

We were found out. The teacher came over. "Thanks," she said. "for the help. He's new and he's a real challenge."

In a poor city, transience is as much of a burden for these kids as the frequent gunfire in the streets. Not living in one place for too long stunts their progress.

God created us in His image. God is in each one of us. God is in these school kids, and so are we. Enter any class and see yourself in a magical mirror. Here's the smart girl, who answers every question at top speed, and whom nobody likes. Here's the flirtatious boy. Here's the jock. Here's the future gazillionaire inventor, now just a quiet nerd.

Some walk into schools and see nothing but targets.

We don't have to be passive.

I donate to a group called Every Town for Gun Safety. Find your own group and donate today.

Oh, and don't buy tickets to, or watch on TV, violent entertainment. I haven't done that for years, and I don't miss it. It's like cutting salt out of your diet. If you eat something salty by mistake, something you used to enjoy, it takes like crap. You spit it out.

Thank you.