Helping “David”

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He stayed after school on Friday for an hour. His mother came to pick him up. A few others were supposed to stay, but the siren call of Friday afternoon was too much for them.

So I worked with David as he slowly, laboriously struggled through his science packet. His cousin has helped him. He showed me a few things she had taught him. Still, the effort was a struggle, a word-by-word fight for understanding. His other teachers and I agree that David might belong in special education. But the process of even getting him considered is a multiday effort with no guarantee of success. I have done it all before only to be told that my student had an I.Q. of 78 and did not qualify for any special services. The magic number is 75, I believe. Almost everyone knows that those tests can easily vary by 3 points, but that one magic number kept my student out of special education. David seems very much like that girl from my past.

Still, we are going to have to assault the portcullis, the heavy iron gate at the entrance to the special education castle soon. David needs help.

At one point, I said, “See, you are learning this. You are getting better.”

“Am I?” he answered. There was such pride in his eyes, but behind that pride lurked a scintilla of hopelessness. I could see the doubt mixed into that expression. David now doubts his ability to learn.

Eduhonesty: This kid who reads so slowly is about to take the first Common Core annual state exam. The math problems supposedly will be all story problems with more than one right answer possible. David is going to get annihilated. His reading speed would ensure that, even if he could sort out the math. If he’s feeling somewhat hopeless now, I can only imagine the fallout from the upcoming test.

Right now, my David is a polite, helpful kid who tries to do the work. He always says thank-you when you help him or give him a treat. Sometimes he drifts and talks too much. Sometimes he gets distracted and does not pay attention, especially when he cannot understand the material being presented. I was kind of entertained when I went with him to his locker to get his coat and we found one missing assignment we had been working on towards the top of a crumpled group of homework papers that had obviously never exited the locker. He apologized profusely. We will have to try to work with him on locker organization.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this great kid becomes hell on wheels in high school, though.

February being African-American history month, I’d like to quote Langston Hughes, who expressed my concern for David perfectly:

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

How long can we keep throwing this kid in over his head and expecting him to say “thank-you”?