Monday, June 1, 2009

In a Child's Words

The sixth graders were given bound journals to write in this year. To most of the students I teach (learning disabled or cognitively disabled) writing is something very similar to torture. I would give them the journals and ask them to write something, but most days I heard I don't know what to write or they would just sit there. I explained that journals were personal thoughts and I locked them up every day and promised that no one would read them, and I didn't.
One of my favorite students this year was a boy I had in fifth grade last year. He had a severe reading disability but a lot of leadership potential and he was way ahead of others in terms of maturity. I could glance his way when the others were being obnoxious and he knew how I felt. I knew he did not get much attention at home. He was being raised by a grandmother and no one ever came to school for any reason in the two years I knew him.
Sadly, he left in the spring and moved away without any notice and I did not have a chance to say goodbye.
While cleaning out materials for the end of the year I saw his journal and decided to look at it. I knew there wouldn't be much written and some of it only a teacher of kids with learning disabilities could interpret. This is what he wrote. I've corrected the spelling so it can be understood:

Dear Diary
When I was 4 years old my dad had passed. I was upset. My mom was upset. He was gunned down. The man who killed him was in jail for one day. I'm still not the same from the day it happened to this day.

To be honest, there's not a lot of hope for this kid. From the stories I heard, no one pays any attention to where he is or what he does day or night. He had street-smarts way beyond his twelve years. With a murdered father, an elderly woman for a parent and a severe learning disability - what will happen to him? He is now in his fourth school in four years. He'll be tough because he'll have to survive. Last year I talked to him about using his potential to make good choices and stay out of trouble - but is there anyone else in his life to tell him that?


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

What a sad story. And what a sad indictment of our society that we can just throw away children like this.

74WIXYgrad said...

It's my hope the next school that he's in will have a teacher like yourself who won't look at him as part of a means to a paycheck, but a piece of clay that is a little more difficult than usual to mold.

Hopefully he will find the leadership necessary to direct his leadership.

Cheryl said...

What a hard start of life for this boy. He sounds very smart and I truly hope he makes it. I'm sorry you didn't get to say good-bye.

Lena said...

He was lucky to have you for his teacher. Sadly, there are so many like him out there.

Ms Hen said...


I had to disown my whole family because of an abusive dad.

I always felt as a child I did not belong the 5th child of this drunken man who molested me at age 8.

I did not turn to drugs or booze. I have a college degree. I own a wonderful house in one of the best school districts of NYC ... I work freelance. I have the best tenants; neighbors; friends; and 2 years of al-anon.

Sadly my two older children (both college graduates have addictions..and I have to set boundaries.. but my 13 year old does not have an addicting personality).

I thought I escaped but did pass on the genes.. to 2 of the 3. I thought since I was not an alcoholic that meant my children would not have addictions. It turns out it can skip. All functional and college educated..

And it seems I kept winding up with married or dating people that were workaholic; alcoholics; overdoing their back pills (almost got engaged to that one in December but did not due to al-anon).. and the last for 5 weeks (sexoholic)..

I learned I'm Codependent growing up in a home with drama and that I pick weak men. They all own houses; great jobs; educated or self-educated; nice cars.. all highly functional but not there for me emotionally enough.. same as when I was a child.

Don't give up hope of this child. He might luck out and his journey might take him to good places and good people.. he stood out to you that way; and maybe another teacher will see that in him too.

At least I hope so.

Being a child .. is strange in america... the most precious little things are often in abusive surroundings.

You sound like a great teacher.. what a wonderful soul you have for doing what you do..