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Perseverance is the Only Way

After purchasing a kitchen table set at IKEA that came in a box the size of my backpack, I questioned how it would transform into our future kitchen table.  I was baffled.  How did a large table and four chairs fit into such a small container?  Then I realized that I had to assemble the table and chairs.  Easy peezy, or so I thought.  The running joke is that anything is more understandable than the assembly instructions for IKEA products.  Interpreting the one-page instruction sheet on how to assemble what I hoped would some day be my future kitchen table was like reading Swedish hieroglyphics.  I just couldn’t do it.  However, I needed a kitchen table and so I persevered and like Joe Dirt taught me, I just kept on keepin’ on.  I did my best to put slot A into opening B and vice versa.  It wasn’t easy, but I finally finished.  Sure, one of the chairs was assembled incorrectly and eventually broke, but I did it.  I had accomplished the task I set out to do.

Recently I had encountered another one of those IKEA assembly instructions moments in the classroom.  A student who seemed to struggle greatly with writing and processing plagued me.  How could I help him?  What else could I try?  Would I ever reach him?  I wasn’t about to give up on him.  I tried everything and still nothing.  I tried having him use Inspiration, storyboarding, and one-on-one discussions.  Nothing seemed to motivate him.  I started to think he had a serious processing issue.  Then, yesterday afternoon I started thinking, “What if it’s a lack of motivation?  What if he really can write and process but that it’s difficult for him and so he just doesn’t do it?  What if he just needs some positive reinforcement and inspiration?  So, instead of going to Clubs today and playing computer games, which he loves, we assigned him a special study hall to work with a teacher on his personal vignette.  If he finished his writing he could return to his Club and we would know that he is capable of writing, and if he didn’t finish or get much accomplished we would have some clout and another witness to help us make a push for him to have educational testing done.  It was a win-win for us no matter what the outcome.  It was one final test for him and us.

So, it turns out he can write and write quickly in fact.  He was at the special study hall for only 10 minutes before he had crafted five more sentences and revised his piece with the teacher.  While his writing is simplistic, he can actually write on his own.  He did it.  So, now what?  When this student came to my Club this afternoon, I praised him for his great effort and work.  I told him how proud of him I am.  He had a big smile on his face.  Then, in a silly voice I asked him, “So, why is it that when you’re in the classroom it takes you an hour to craft two sentences but you can write five sentences in 10 minutes?”  He laughed and said, “I don’t know.  Sometimes writing is easy for me.”  Okay, so now we need to capitalize on this and help him build upon the work he did this afternoon.  Positive reinforcement seems to work.  We’ll try it.  I’ll praise him and remind him of what he is capable.  Then, if he continues to struggle we will give him extra time to work in the afternoon during his free or play time.  This inspiration seemed to help.  While I ‘d rather not take away his time, I know it works.

The moral of the story is, never give up.  As a teacher, I will never give up on my students.  I will always fight for them.  I know that each of my students is capable and has great potential.  This particular boy does too.  Now that I’m beginning to see it, I need to continue working with him to find out how we can get him to sustain this work ethic in the classroom.  Perseverance is a crucial trait for all teachers to possess.  When we look at a problem from all angles, the answer will eventually appear much like my kitchen table, albeit a bit busted.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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