Today I was reminded of a former student. I truly cannot remember her name because she was only in our classroom for a few months. We'll call her Stephanie. Stephanie came to our classroom (I shared the class with another teacher) in the spring of first grade. She moved here from another school where she had been with a different foster family. Stephanie had many brothers and sisters, but 3 of them had travelled together. Her older brother was next door at the middle school and her little sister was at home, with their new foster family. She was a sad little girl and she could not read very much at all. She could barely write. Oh boy, I thought. What are we going to do to get this little girl being successful by May? My partner teacher and I were both trained in Reading Recovery through Ohio State University. Taking on non-reading 1st graders is what we did. Obviously, Stephanie was going to be our next student in the program, which worked one-on-one with students intensely and daily.
But then I checked her folder. Uh oh. She had already been through a full program of Reading Recovery at her other school. And this was as far as she got? I called her former RR teacher and chatted for a while. She just wasn't making progress. This was looking bad. Stephanie had already undergone some of the most intense programming available in public school and she still wasn't keeping up. In fact, to be perfectly honest, if she had been starting first grade instead of finishing first grade, she might have been OK.
We didn't give up on her by any means. She saw the counselor regularly, we encouraged her, we worked with her. But in the back of everyone's mind...we knew her future. Either she would be retained in first grade, or she would be tested for special education. Those were the choices in her future.
But God had other plans.
A month or so after Stephanie arrived in our classroom, we were called for a parent conference. The lady who sat in front of us introduced herself and wanted to talk about Stephanie. She and her husband had 11 children (both homemade and adopted) and were planning to adopt Stephanie and her other 2 siblings that were with her. What good news! we said. This lady was so nice and sweet and we were so excited for this little girl whom we did not know very well. The lady explained that they homeschooled their other children, but since Stephanie and her siblings would not be officially theirs for a while, they would have to be in public school a while longer. So, she wanted to know, how was Stephanie doing in school?
Gently, gently we explained the situation. Almost everything has already been tried. We told her what had been done at the other school, showed her samples of the work from our classroom, and tried to focus on the positive, while painting a very real picture of where Stephanie should be right now (according to the state). Honestly, we told her, if she were to remain at this school, she would either be retained or tested next year.
Her soon-to-be-new mom didn't seem the least bit ruffled. She asked us one question:
Don't you think self-esteem has so much to do with it?
Of course it does, we agreed! Of course when a child believes they can do it, they are more successful. Of course Stephanie's home situation is affecting her performance in school. Of course it is. Unfortunately, schools are not allowed to take that kind of information into consideration when reviewing a student's progress. They just either can or can't. There is no chance to put a post-it note on the report card saying, "I really think she's capable, but there was just so much going on at home..."
So Stephanie ended the year and went off to live with her new family. Our thoughts and prayers went with her and I thought that was the end of the story.
But God was going to give me an update one day.
Click here for the conclusion.