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In Case You Wonder

In case you wonder why I don’t mind dropping $40 on a set of books like the following…

It’s because of teenagers like Ms. “J.”

J came into my classroom with a chip on her shoulder.

She didn’t know why she was placed in Intensive Reading.

She’d never been in Intensive Reading before and claimed she was a very accomplished reader.

She was angry, so things didn’t start off well.

She distanced herself from me, lashed out rudely every time I asked her to do something, and caused numerous problems.

I stood my ground, held her accountable for her actions, and welcomed her back into my room with a clean slate every single day.

The ironic thing was that despite the problems we were having, we had something in common…

Our love for reading.

This girl would not…in fact refused to…keep her nose out of my books.

She read when she was supposed to, and she read when she wasn’t.

My classroom has over 1,000 books in it.  I’m pretty sure of that.

It’s a book lover’s haven.

As she started sharing her reactions about the books she was reading…most of the ones I’d read this past summer…a camaraderie developed.

I welcomed her anger at character’s decisions.

I gave her kleenex when she got sad over terrible things that were happening to other characters.

I recommended more books to her and found, to my delight (and to her surprise) that she actually trusted my choices.

I’m not sure when it happened, but gradually, our relationship changed.

It started the day she told me she had experienced a similar bad thing that had happened to a character.

She later shared more details about her life.

One day, as she was doing the grammar bellwork I’d posted on the board, she said, “We never did anything like this last year.  I actually learned something.”

I think it was her seal of approval on my teaching methods…something I value highly.

Last week, my eyes filled with tears when she excitedly approached me…report card in hand.

Her grades were good.  Really good.  And she wanted to tell ME.

She explained that last year, she’d made bad choices, and her grades had suffered.

She told me that over the summer, she had decided to change.

Her goal, she declared, was to make all A’s in my class.

She’s got a tough road ahead of her because the second and third nine weeks kick my students in the rear.

She’ll rise to the challenge, though.  She’s a girl who’s lived a tough life.  Already.


Today, my level of respect for this young woman rose exponentially when she told me that she takes care of her mother.

I joked that she probably gives her a hard time, and she very softly and sincerely said that no, she doesn’t.  She explained that her mother had heart surgery this past summer (or will be having it next summer…I couldn’t understand her properly), so she has to do everything for her mom.

She went on to say that she’s tired every day because she stays up late taking care of her mom…cooking…etc.

What a different perspective I have now.

This child who does, sometimes, try to sleep…a big no-no in my room…is so busy taking care of someone who is supposed to be the caregiver for her…that she’s going to school sleep-deprived…and maintaining amazing grades.

So, if you wonder why I spend over a thousand dollars a year on books, this is why.

Because of things like this…

She left me a note on my new whiteboard.  I didn’t take a picture of it before I left, but the words are imprinted on my heart…

I love you.

Written by a young woman who fought me so hard just ten weeks ago.

In the middle of so many education woes, I was reminded, yet again, why I do what I do…why I carry on…why my VAM doesn’t matter.

For girls like J.

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