breakin’ my heart

Summers for teachers can be a myriad of things. For some, it’s the time to get married free of the worry of a work schedule, for others it’s time to take the kids to the pool, or put an addition on the house, or trollop off to Italy. For me, this summer, it’s time to blog a lot, take a class, talk to friends way too much on the phone, and tutor an odd child or two.

This summer, I’m tutoring a 5th grader. This is so not my element. 5th graders have brains. They can talk back. I'm used to the 5 year olds who really want to tell you that have to pee. “Ahhhhh,” was my first reaction. And then I met this girl and had no idea how to talk to her. She seemed shy. I seemed stupid. I was clueless about how to talk to someone at her age.

I pressed on though, assessing her reading ability, scouring my own home library for middle school age topics and recalling my own middle school years. Her reading level is low, around 2nd or 3rd grade, but I knew that she needed to be read to at a higher level so I picked on of my favorite books from middle school, Middle School Blues by Lou Kassem. It’s about a misfit girl who feels like she was adopted by aliens. It’s my life story, basically.

I designed what I thought would be a good structure for lessons, 1-she reads silently then a little aloud 2- we review 3- word study 4-journal writing 5-listening comprehension. I was pulling from 7 years back when I took a reading course for older grades. I was praying this would not bore her.

Each day I go to see her I worry a little. I worry that she will see through my veil of a grown up teacher and notice that I’m just as scared of the world as she is. That hasn’t happened yet, amazingly enough. And she’s a sweetheart. She’s worried about middle school (as she should be) and has no one at home. I don’t know her whole story, nor would I share it with you, but she is a foster child and this makes me want to take her home and care for her because today she told me she had no books to read at home. “We’ll have to work on that. You need to practice reading everyday,” I said.

And then today, after I was convinced that our sessions were as dull as spoons, she writes this in her journal, “Today is a grate day. I never had time to say this but I love my toder. She help me all the time. She is the best. I can talk to her about every this. When I grow up I want to be like her.” And with that, in her bad grammar and misspellings, she is breaking my heart. Off to Barnes and Nobles to buy her some books because she deserves books more so that I deserve to go to Italy, damn it!

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