It is common practice at our school that teachers notify the families of students who are doing poorly in a particular subject prior to the report card, so that there are no unhappy surprises. I submit grades for media, drama and dance for the primary grades, and after tabulating my various assessments, one student in Sonia Singh's Grade 2 class was earning "R" for media. I told Sonia about these preliminary results and this upset her greatly.
"X is not a R student. She is capable of much more than a R!", she told me.
We met and I showed her all the work samples I had for this student. I was perplexed. I thought I had provided sufficient accommodations and supports for her but it wasn't working. Sonia was shocked at the quality of work the child was producing.
"Let me work with her." she pleaded.
I explained what was expected for a couple of the tasks and agreed to give the student another chance to attempt the work with her classroom teacher. The very same day, Mrs. Singh called me into her classroom, her face beaming. Not only had the student re-done the assignments, the quality had improved tremendously! I asked her what magic she had performed to evoke this huge turnaround. Sonia said that she reexplained the work and gave the girl a very specific time for her to complete the task. The student worked at her desk right next to the teacher during recess and when Mrs. Singh checked in on her, she had completed the job. We talked about the challenges of working in the library (with many distractions present and no individual desks around) and decided on some strategies that might help the youngster stay focused (such as keeping her next to me during work time, giving her time goals to meet, and checking in on her frequently to ensure she was on task).
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and I meant to follow the recommendations the classroom teacher and I designed for her. During our dance lesson, which involved a writing task, I myself was so bombarded with other students and their desire for feedback that I forgot to keep the little girl at my side. She's a quiet child, one that can easily slip between the cracks. Yet, when I checked in on her at the end of class, she had correctly completed the task! I practically ran to Sonia's class to tell her the good news and she was so proud of what the student had accomplished (despite my lack of support).
Sonia Singh is an inspiration, because:
- poor results were not the be-all and end-all, but reasons for investigation > Why isn't this child succeeding? What else can we do to help?
- the unsatisfactory grade was not my problem, but OUR problem and one that she was truly interested in rectifying
- all students have potential to improve > she possesses a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset
- teachers help other teachers, when and how they can, even to the point of giving up their recess time to plan, discuss, reflect, and celebrate
It can be difficult to find the time to have these conversations - that's why I am so pleased that during our upcoming half-day PLC release time, the school Literacy Committee has reserved some time for us to discuss our focus students (and, if needed, the students that puzzle us for various reasons). Two heads are better than one, and if we can resolve to rescue as many of our students from the R results together as a team, then I feel optimistic about the future of education, at least in my building. Thank you Sonia for caring so much about our students.