Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reluctant Readers and Exceptional Teachers

As a parent, there is nothing that compares to the helpless feeling of not being able to fix something for your child. It doesn't matter if they are a screaming newborn who has been fed, burped, diapered, and rocked, or if they fell and cut their lip on the corner of the coffee table, or if they got treated poorly by someone on the playground, or if they are struggling to understand a math concept. The helpless parent feeling sucks.

In those helpless moments I do a lot of praying. And the crazy thoughts about this happening being good because it brings me to prayer goes through my head and I am not going to talk about the theology of that kind of thinking. It's not the point. I go to prayer because that is what I know to comfort me in my helplessness. There is someone I can trust who is NOT helpless in this situation.

I've done a lot of praying about my reluctant reader. I wish I could say in honesty that I've only prayed. But the truth is I have worried, a lot. I have felt so helpless.

We've had good teachers, really good teachers. Teachers with decades of experience, skilled and masters in their trade. I've had every confidence in them. But still, my reader has been reluctant, dis-interested, insecure, and frustrated. And this momma has been all those things too.

Then two weeks into school starting, because of large class sizes, we found out that my reluctant reader was going to be one of the students that would be moved to a new class, with a new teacher. The teacher didn't have decades of experience as a third grade teacher, most of his experience was as a music teacher. And I admit, even though I knew him to be an exceptional music teacher, my head worried, even though my heart was at peace. In the quiet of my heart I hoped that this was God moving, answer my desperate prayers.

During the Parent Curriculum Night he didn't just give permission but he encouraged us to read aloud during some of their reading time. (This was something I had previously felt very guilty about, concerned we were "cheating".) So with our recently discovered Judy Moody books we started to take turns reading together. She read a page, then I read a page, back and forth. We could go much beyond the expected twenty minutes. She'd ask to read "just one more chapter, Mom." My reluctant reader, though still below her reading level was no longer reluctant.

My heart began to really hope and relax, just a bit.

Then last week when my reader came home from school she was agitated, bursting into tears over trivial things. So I pulled her back to the bedroom for our private after school cuddle time and my daughter wept as she told me that she had a math test (the common core one they give you meant to gauge where the kids are at the beginning of the year so that the teachers can prove they taught your child something). She cried because she couldn't read some of the words and her teacher wasn't allowed to help her, "But Mom, it was the MATH test." I just held her as she cried and told her I didn't care how she scored on those tests and that I knew she knew how to do math and it was okay because she was getting to be a stronger reader every single day.

And I felt angry even though I didn't show it. And I felt so helpless.

But the next day the energy was back and she was eager to read, asking if we could do double reading (40 minutes) because she got proud points for the extra reading. So we continued to read and my new to me eager reader was back.

Then the test scores came home. Her math was ten points higher than the fall expectation and her reading was only seven points lower than the fall expectation. My heart soared. I pulled her aside and we looked at the scores together and we talked about how incredibly well she was doing and how her diligence was paying off. And I praised God. I praised God for a teacher who seemed to know how to encourage and motivate my precious child!

Yesterday, after studying her spelling words and taking a pre-test with me and missing only one (out of eighteen, she'd been know to bomb her tests, even after studying) she eager asked if she could help Gracie with her words. Yes! She started to skip down the hallway, but stopped at the kitchen and smiled at me, saying:

"Mom, Mr. C. is a really good teacher."

No, Mercy, Mr. C. isn't a really good teacher. We've had lots of those, Mr. C. an EXCEPTIONAL teacher and I am so overwhelmed with gratitude.

I know there are hard days ahead. Reading will likely always be challenging for one of my children, but my heart is encouraged and so grateful for this tremendous gift we've been given right now when it was needed the most.



  1. I just LOVE this story. I'm so glad it's working out well for her and that she's proud of her progress. YOU are such a great Mom to be so patiently encouraging her. Mr. C sounds great, but you deserve some big points as well. :)

    1. Thanks, Angela. There really is nothing like the helpless feeling of not being able to help. Mr. C. truly has been a God-gift. He even has these huge blocks (2 feet cubed) in the classroom that he auctions off to kids daily to be able to do all their classwork up on top of. He's immensely creative and makes learning fun. But he's strict and has high expectations. It's a perfect mix and I feel so blessed!

  2. Oh Cami, I am soooooo glad to read this story and know that she is getting what she needs, and that your worrying can be relieved too (completely relate to that feeling of course). Totally crying at work - happy tears :) xoxoxoxo