Another school year is drawing to a close, my second year teaching 5th grade ELA. We close our writing year writing memoirs. Last year we didn’t get to this unit in time to do it justice with all the interruptions the end of the school year brings. This year my partner and I planned better and almost all of my kids have turned in their memoirs or will soon. I’ve been pleased that so many of my students have really reached deep to find something worth writing about. And then there’s my newest student. The one who came a week before our state reading test. The test that 5th graders must pass to move on to 6th grade. The one they get three opportunities to pass.
This young man doesn’t remember how many schools he’s been in THIS year, much less in his school career. He admitted that he doesn’t like to read when I was giving him his Benchmark Assessment a couple of days after he enrolled. The assessment showed that he’s reading on a mid-second grade level, though he’s been retained somewhere along the way. It was no surprise that he didn’t pass the reading test the first time, and unless some kind of miracle occurs, he won’t pass the second administration either.
I sat with him to try to pull out something that he could write about, even if it wasn’t really a memoir. It was like pulling teeth. We ended up talking about how it feels to move so much and have to change schools. He talked about his most recent move. I asked if he had to help pack boxes, but he said there wasn’t time for that, they just had to leave almost everything behind. His Playstation and some other belongings went to the pawn shop to pay for gas. I checked on him several minutes after we’d talked, and found he’d begun with, “Do you know what it’s like to move from house to house and always have to make new friends?” Wow. Without any coaching on how to begin, he managed to engage the reader instantly.
My heart breaks for this young man. I can’t even imagine what his life must be like.