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first grade classroom

I was totally flushed with excitement! I’d been tutoring Nicoama, a first grader, after school every day since I’d started working for the school district. He’d just been evaluated and had tested out at an IQ of 50. At 50 a person is considered severely mentally retarded. It pissed me off. Learning disabilities, yeah…challenged, yeah…crappy home life and parents who didn’t give a hoot about education, yeah…but retarded? If you weren’t trying to get him to read or do math you wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong with him.

So I changed my strategy and had him start reading harder and harder books. When I got him he could only sound out 3-letter words and would say (for example) t – o – p, pot! He wasn’t hearing things in the right order. Dyslexic? When he’d finally mastered the 3-letter words, then I’d started teaching him phonics blends so he didn’t have as many sounds to deal with. Instead of c-l-a-p, we did cl-a-p. He’d been improving steadily and was sounding out 4- and 5-letter words quite well.

Finally I’d pushed him to read a book that was too hard for him, and I’d only had to help him with a half dozen words. Then he’d read another. And another while his regular teacher listened in amazement. I was about ready to bust my buttons I was so proud of him.

Then the last week of school the teacher got the test results of his second evaluation. To her disbelief he was functioning at an IQ of 70! That’s where Down’s Syndrome kids usually function. His IQ had gone up 20 points!

I was so stoked! And was 100% convinced that Nicoama was not retarded, that he just had a learning disability. I watched him improve day by day and was disappointed when it was decided to promote him to second grade and have him spend half a day in regular class and half a day in special ed. I felt it was a mistake. I wasn’t a qualified teacher, but I was a mom, and my gut told me he should repeat first grade with special ed so he’d have a chance to get some “victories” and self-confidence under his belt. It made me angry. And not just for Nicoama. Why were they so willing to just give up on these kids and shove them through the system?

I toyed with the idea of offering to tutor Nicoama over the summer for free if his folks would agree. I had no clue what I’d be getting myself into. But they weren’t interested. In their mind, too, their son was “retarded” and they felt it would be pointless to get his hopes up. Hopes for what? That he could be a productive and functioning individual?

I didn’t go back to tutor the next year. That experience took the heart right out of me. I’ve no idea what happened to Nicoama. I can only hope that my work with him made a difference in that young man’s life.

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This was a post I started back in May about an experience I had tutoring at Dee Elementary, a school where a lot of migrant workers in this area enrolled their kids and pulled them out at will when work was available somewhere else. It was WAY longer than this. I had discussed a lot of the difficulties in teaching kids in that situation. But in response to a Writing 101 challenge, I decided to try and pare it down to 500 words. I did, and it became about Nicoama, one little boy I tutored.

Writing 101, Day 12

Play with word count

On days when you feel stuck and aren’t sure how to write a post, it might well be that your topic and content are solid, but your approach needs tweaking. Have you tried experimenting with word count?

In today’s post, pay attention to the total length of your post: if you usually write posts under 500 words, aim for longer. If you tend to write a lot, be succinct.


(Picture Credit: flyinghighinfirst.blogspot.com)