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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thank you is always a good thing.

I have some really quiet students this year. I want to talk about one of them, let's call him Marvin.

Marvin is a big kid with glasses, crazy hair, and a constant earbuds. He rarely talks and smiles even less.

At the beginning of the year, I wasn't sure how to build a relationship with Marvin...or how to support him academically.

Marvin didn't ask for help. He also didn't waste his time. But he wasn't consistently turning in completed or high quality assignments.

Gradually, I figured out that Marvin was very capable, but his rate of processing and producing work is extraordinarily slow. It takes him three to five times as long to finish most tasks compared to his peers. That is not insignificant.

I started reducing length for him. Instead of writing 10 similes, write 5 etc. It worked. I also made sure to check in with him privately to make sure the issue was speed and not understanding.

Marvin's grade improved and has stayed high enough to avoid undue concern. Still he struggles to keep up and still he continues to demonstrate mastery of new concepts. I referred to our Student Support Team, not because he can't be successful, but because I want all his teachers to know how capable he is.

Right before Thanksgiving I got a note from Marvin. His math teacher asked all her students to write a thank you note to a teacher. She does it every year. I love how positive it is.

This year I got two notes. One from a student who I knew appreciated my help and our relationship.

The other one was from Marvin. In it, Marvin thanked me for noticing him and always helping him.

I can't tell you how much I appreciated that note. If you asked me what Marvin thought of me or my class, I would have told you I had no idea. I didn't even know he noticed the attention I was giving him.

It is so affirming when a kid voices their appreciation. It almost feels like vindication for all the nay-sayers out there.

Marvin has gotten slightly more talkative over time, but he still rarely initiates any conversation and his smile is reserved for the most special of moments.

That same math teacher, asks her students to write the name of a teacher on a blank index card each January.

She distributes the cards to the teachers and asks us to write a note of encouragement the students will receive just as they begin their Algebra End of Course Exam. I love this idea too.

I got a stack of almost twenty cards this year, including Marvin's.

I never expect appreciation. I know teenagers aren't really built for it. I recognize that most high school recognition emerges Senior year...a point where I, as a freshman teacher, am long in most kids' rear view mirrors.

I have to admit, though, those rare instances, like Marvin's note, give me sustenance. Those little gestures reassure me that I make a difference...and it means the most coming from kids.

Thank you is always a good thing. Its nice to give and rewarding to get.

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