Each semester, AmeriCorps’ Project MARS collects ‘Great Stories’ from each of our members—entries where they reflect on their experiences mentoring in the classroom and the progress that they see students making. This month’s story comes from Katrina Ledford.
“LB” Is a sweet second grader who lives with a difficult and unfortunate home situation. He is a very hyper little boy who craves attention twenty-four hours a day—however, due to his behavior and compulsive actions, he is often ignored and overlooked or just the opposite: constantly exhorted to calm down. The truth is, “LB” has difficulty remaining in his seat and even sitting still for any given period of time. All throughout the day he searches for someone to talk to, anyone that will listen.
Despite the extremely unfortunate situation at home, LB is very smart boy and exceeds expectations in math. He does not get very much help at home academically so even being on grade level in any subject is truly remarkable. The fact that he is so advanced in math says so much about him and his monumental potential—and I constantly try to point out when working with him how smart he is. Still, he struggles with self- confidence daily.
Reading is one area we are trying to work on in our spare time. He currently receives accommodations for spelling and reading, but because he does not read on grade level, he is discouraged and does not like coming to school. I often hear him speak from a place of defeat—saying things like “I can’t read” and “I’m not smart”. Because he does not feel comfortable reading, LB struggles when completing comprehension questions, especially at home when he doesn’t have any help.
One day, LB was writing a story about a spider and decided to take the initiative to ask me questions about how to spell certain words. I didn’t tell him what to write or even how to spell the words he was asking me about. Instead, I helped him sound out the words and figure out their spelling through his own commitment and effort. I was hopeful that if he figured most of it out on his own, he would become more confident with writing and reading. Shortly after helping him figure out how to spell a few words I had to leave classroom to assist a child in the next grade, so I couldn’t see how his story turned out.
Later that afternoon, when I came back to LB’s classroom, I passed him and his teacher on the way to the principal’s office. I was really disheartened at first because I felt that sitting with him and helping him would have made a difference and he would have a good day. I thought helping him figure the words out on his own would give him confidence to do a good job and have good behavior that day. It wasn’t long ,however, when—as I was working through my disappointment—LB walked back in the classroom with his teacher. His teacher looked at me and said “Mrs. Ledford, we had to make a trip to the principals office”. I’m sure the look on my face showed the discouragement I was feeling. Suddenly, I saw LB hold his little arm in the air to show me the new rubber wrist band he picked out of the treasure box in the principal’s office for doing such a great job on his story! I was so excited. LB’s teacher told me he gave the most details on his story, more than anyone else in the class. He ran and grabbed his story out of the finished box and asked if he could read it to me. For some children in LB’s classroom, being top is not a big deal and for LB, doing the best in math wouldn’t be a huge deal either. However, this little boy despises reading and he hates writing even more than reading. It’s just not something he feels confident doing. So seeing his excitement and pride in his work impacted me and made me realize that what I am doing here is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I love being able to make an impact in someone’s life that needs an extra person in theirs.