Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Starfish Story

By Isabel Huston, corps members serving on the CSX Team at Turner Elementary School

On my first official day in Ms. Lofland’s classroom I met a very small girl with white beads in her hair. She was crying with her head down on her desk, and when I tried to ask what was wrong she refused to respond.

Over the next few months I would run into this version of her on a regular basis. One of the brightest and most capable students in her class, she is also the most taciturn. For the most insignificant reason she will drop her pencil, set her jaw, and refuse to do any work for the rest of the period. I learned, after months of futile pleading, to pick my battles with her.

Most of these battles came during our after school homework time, where I would sit day after day for an hour and coach her through that night’s math homework. Every tutoring session felt like a tug of war. I felt like we weren’t making any progress, that she hated math…and me.

And then, one day in January something strange happened. We finished that night’s math homework—adding mixed numbers—and she put her arms around my shoulders. I flinched and asked her what she was doing. “I’m giving you a hug,” she said with a smile.

Since then she has undergone a transformation in both attitude and performance. Her temper tantrums have all but disappeared, she works quietly and diligently during independent work, and she even has the confidence to help her classmates when she understands something. I am so proud of the growth I have seen in her as a student and a person. As she and her class prepare to leave elementary school and head to middle school, I am excited for her because I believe that she will have the right tools to succeed.

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