It is a new year and I have a whole new crop of students.
Slowly, I am getting to know them.
One week in, and I have about 75% of their first names memorized.
By the end of next week, I should know them all first and last.
There are always a few who stick out though.
This year, one of those is a young man we will call Tavon.
On the first day of school, Tavon was late for my class.
When he arrived, I asked him his name. He told me, handed me a pass, and said
"The counselor gonna tell you bout me."
I thought, "um, ok..." and let it go.
Later, I asked both his counselor and his principal what the deal was.
Basically, the gist is that at home Tavon is the adult.
At 14, that is a lot to handle and I should expect that he might have some trouble being a kid at school.
So far, this has not been my experience at all.
A couple of days later, another teacher caught me in the hall.
She told me that though Tavon is not on her caseload (he has an IEP), he had kind of adopted her the day before.
She went on to inform me that Tavon had asked her to talk to all his teachers.
He wanted us to know that he was worried about keeping up and he needs extra help and time.
Then she told me his diagnosis.
That information has not yet been distributed to teachers, we should receive all of that early next week.
In my experience, the diagnosis sometimes provides a skewed picture of what an individual student actually needs.
Once in a while, a diagnosis can provide insight into a kid's needs.
For Tavon, the jury is out.
It is just too early to tell.
I am a little surprised that he is in co-taught academic courses in every subject.
As the semester continues, I will learn more about his academic needs.
In the meantime, Tavon has adopted me too.
After I spoke to my colleague about him, I let him know I was happy to help.
The change in him was immediate.
It went something like this:
I gave instructions to the class and he immediately got up, walked over to me and asked me specific questions.
Just to be clear, he sits in the front of the room, in front of my desk.
His questions are simplistic, repetitive, almost silly.
"Can I have more time on this?" asked after being told the assignment in question is due next week.
"Which side of the paper can I write on?" asked about a blank sheet of lined paper.
"Can I work on this now?" asked after students were told they have thirty minutes to work independently.
And so on and so forth.
A lot of teachers might find this kind of questioning a bit, well, vexing, an indication that he is not listening.
At times, I will probably share such frustration.
The thing is, though, when Tavon asks a question, no matter how ridiculous and obvious the question may seem, he is asking to learn.
If he is not listening on purpose, I will know soon enough.
If he is listening, but not hearing, understanding, or processing, well that will become obvious too.
Either way, it is my privilege and responsibility to honor his desire to learn, to participate, to be successful.
Will we work on strategies to help him be more independent?
Absolutely. Continuously asking the obvious will get tiresome for both of us.
Will he continue to ask and ask and ask (and ask and ask and ask)?
I hope so. Nothing is a better testament of his positive attitude towards learning.
So, I will answer every question...sometimes with directions about how to find the answer, sometimes with another question.
But I will answer every question with kindness, patience, and a smile.
This tactic is already reaping rewards.
Tavon is one of a handful of students who did not get his Chromebook before school started.
He has been waiting so hard all week for his Chromebook to arrive.
Friday, it was delivered to him after he left my class for the day.
He made a special trip back by my room to show me he had it.
He was wearing the biggest smile.
That is how I know he adopted me.
I am officially on his need to know list.
I have no doubt Tavon will try my nerves.
But his willingness to ask for help, his desire to learn, his big toothy smile are all good things.