Project MARS/AmeriCorps collects “Great Stories” from its members in which they reflect on their experiences mentoring in the classroom and the progress they see students making. This month’s story was written by Abby Jacobs.
Boots has trouble in class. He has a hard time communicating because he thinks a lot on his words before speaking. Unfortunately, his peers don’t always have the patience to find out what he has to say. So, he’s on the quieter side; mostly keeps to himself. He also has a tough time in academics too. Therefore, his teacher allows an allotted time for Boots and me to work one-on-one.
One day we had finished our practice sheets earlier than expected. Boots had done a good job maintaining focus, and I wanted to reward him somehow. Boots’ teacher had the lovely idea to take a small walk outside for a couple of minutes. It was early fall, and the weather was wonderful – not too chilly, not too hot.
We took a round-about sidewalk past the playground. As we rounded the last loop before going inside, Boots excitedly left the path and made a beeline towards a garden. The garden, he said, was the same one that he and his classmates planted last year. He spoke so excitedly about the sunflowers, the pumpkins, the tomatoes, the peppers, and the yellow jackets that might be inhabiting the berry bushes.
Up until that point, I had only heard two or three sentences at a time from him. It was awesome to see how passionate he was about a simple garden. It was like a dam had opened.
As we went back inside (away from the yellow jackets), he continued to talk, about his garden at home, how many dogs he had, the trucks that ran on diesel and the cars that ran on gas. It was as if Boots just needed someone to knock on his door so that he felt compelled to open it.
I now knew the secret to Boots – ask a carefully curated question on farming, and he’d be happy to share.