Many of you have probably heard about my student, Ladejeisha (pronounce La-de-ja with about ten too many vowels…many of us wonder why they don’t have spell checks in hospitals these days). This girl truly is inspirational. She came in this year reading at the kindergarten level on her best days. She struggled with word-site recognition and couldn’t write either. It’s really a shame that she’s been passed along through the system without question. Anyways, Ladejeisha has come and met with me daily to improve her reading skills. She practices and practices. I’ve read books aloud and recorded them on tape so that she will have something to read/listen to over break. And she actually listens! And returns the recorder!
One day last week I was reading her English homework to her. About half way through she stopped me and said, “Ms. H, do you think you could maybe let me read some myself? When you just read it to me I’m not getting better.” WOW! What an advocate for herself. Anyways, this girl is extremely intelligent. Her illiteracy is frustrating to her and myself. She can hold a respectable conversation with all adults and is engaged in her classes. She has higher level thinking skills that are way above many of my other students. And she has a determination and perseverance that is absolutely motivational.
However, a few weeks ago we were about to do our Repeated Partner Reading. One student asked why she always got to be my partner. Ladejeisha replied, “Because I’m retarded and can’t read.” I immediately corrected her with the “r” word and she said, “Well, okay, I couldn’t read at the beginning of the year and I still have a really hard time”. Here she was saying this in front of the entire class. I wasn’t sure what to say. So, that same student, the class clown, took it all in for a moment and reassuringly told her, “That’s okay. I’m not good at math….here, watch, we’ll have a competition on the board.” Everyone started letting her know what they weren’t good at so that she wouldn’t feel bad about her struggle. I mean, seriously, who would have thought middle school students would be handling it this way? I was so happy! I really almost cried.
Anyways, yesterday I took a sick day (the first time ever during my three years of teaching that I’ve ever been sick!). During that day, I found myself thinking about Ladejeisha (It could have been when I was getting frustrated trying to beat Donkey Kong). I mean, really, if I were bad at something for thirteen years I find it hard to believe I would still be attempting to do it. She even told me a few weeks ago she knew she was getting better because she was able to read street signs. Anyways, we re-took the San Diego Quick today (a short assessment to roughly estimate grade level: the one where she was at an instructional level of pre-primer). She is up to an instructional level of 2.5!! She’s improved by three grade levels in the past six months…and I guarantee you, I will see her get up to the fifth grade level by the end of this summer! How awesome is that?!?