Monday, July 9, 2018

July 9. Fish in a Tree

I taught his older brother--one of those BMOC's waiting to blossom in high school and college. Smart as a whip, funny, athletic, cute, just everything you would want in a son.
This one showed up in my sixth grade homeroom the year after his brother graduated. His mom tried to persuade him to write something on my bulletin board (equipped with chalk and prompts) and he said, "Mom, I'm not ______" and named his older brother I loved so much.

I vowed then and there I would never call him by the wrong name, I would never compare him, I would never make him feel like he was less than that large personality he followed.

Within the first week, I realized there was no possible way I was going to make that mistake. I loved this kid and he was nothing like the older brother, in all the best ways. I loved him and his class that year and I learned from his mom that following summer that on the last day of school, after he turned and shook my hand and thanked me for the year, he went home and cried on his bed because it was over and even though I would continue to be his math teacher, it would never be the same.

But before that happened, before the religion class journal project and before I identified him to his mom as possibly being a lot more dyslexic than previously thought (meaning, at all...), before any of that, when we were just starting to bond as teacher and student, there was a book fair at the school. It coincided with teacher conferences and I was sitting in the hall waiting for the next parent when I saw him walking down the long hallway with something in his hand.

He thrust his hand out towards me, and in it was this book. "For me?" I asked. He nodded, nervous. "Thank you," I said his name. And he walked away.

"Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid."

It's about a student with dyslexia who is finally identified by her 6th grade teacher.

I identified his dyslexia the following year.

I still tutor him--and I find myself, partway through math problems, having him verbally explain the answers. And I know that his high school teachers won't do this for him, not fluidly and naturally like we do. It's a beautiful dance between the right student and the right teacher, one that Vygostsky describes and I ascribe to because all good teachers should. But there don't seem to be enough good teachers.

I'm learning though that it really only takes one to make you believe. For my Sophia it was Mr. Rouse. For me it was Br. Stephen. Perhaps I'm the one for this young man--although I hope he does have more along the way the next four years, I take my responsibility seriously.  Because it is vital to be seen.


  1. This is a wonderful story. The world needs more teachers like you.

  2. Maybe I needed to cry today. I don't know. You are a blessing to that boy, and every boy needs all the blessings he can get.