The Bravest Child
Paige Covey, K-3 Reading Corps Interventionist
We are sitting in the eye of a hurricane. It is the beginning of the school year, and children must be assessed and scored to be assigned to a Reading Corps tutor. The deadline for assessments is Friday. Of course, COVID has complicated Reading Corps assessments.
Battered but determined, teachers, tutors, and administrators have charged against the obstacles. Each time one is defeated, another seems to take its place. Tutors are required by many schools to serve from home as non-essential employees. Our students are five, six, seven, and eight-year-olds. Sitting in front of our computers at home, we wait for children to meet us over the camera. The seven-year-olds cannot navigate between their virtual classroom and the virtual assessment room without help from a parent. Many parents are in the next room, trying to navigate their own virtual conferences. Some parents are present, but having just as much difficulty as the students. The teachers cannot guide the parents in how to get to the assessment room after they have left the virtual classroom. Getting their child back to class is just as hard. Children in the school cannot be sent individually to the computer lab without an adult to watch them. Almost all adults in the school are busy, trying to supervise the rest of the children while they take this week’s standardized tests. They cannot also take the children to the computer lab.
Through a whirlwind of emails and effort, an adult is found to take children to the lab. The students at home must be left for now. Perhaps exceptions can be made for their Reading Corps assessment after the conference room issue is solved. In this quiet room, children are plopped in front of the computer one after the other, searched out by the adult when they are done with their tests.
“Hi, my name is Paige. What’s your name?”
“I will show you some letters on a page. You will tell me the sound of each letter…”
The directions are finished. I have asked the child to begin. The child is silent at first. I wait three seconds and prompt with the first answer. The child repeats what I have said. The timer is started. For the second letter, I count to three and prompt again; the child happily repeats my answer. Just like this, we cheerfully move to the next letter, and the next. I am hoping that this child can give me at least one sound. Each three second pause is waited out with baited breath.
This child is calm and joyful. This student takes the things that are not known in stride, trusting that I will lead when they cannot answer. The assessment is faced down, one letter at a time, with no trace of fear or helplessness. Soon, we have reached the end of the assessment. The discontinue rule applies.
“Stop. Ok, I’m going to write that down now. Wait a moment.” I look at the score on my paper and take a deep breath. Prompted answers won’t count. I reset the smile in my voice and look up at the child.
“Thank you. I’m all done. You can tell them to bring the next person now.”
“Yup.” The child answers cheerfully. There is pride, ringing clear in their voice, unshakeable pride that they have completed a job well done, a job worth being thanked for. The assessments move on.
Oh kid. I am just your examiner. I may never see you again. I hope the person who brought you here heard this. I hope she tells your teacher as soon as you get back. I hope your teacher has the time to help you, you and the other eight, nine, ten students who are struggling after the pandemic’s interruption in last year’s schooling. I hope your teacher and your administrator are able to move your parents past their anger that you did not get the knowledge that you were supposed to receive last year, into working with the school to find a solution. But most of all, I hope you remember how to face the work you do not know, with cheer in your voice and trust on your face. Please remember the courage you had today. On the day you realize that your score was not the same as many others, you will need it so badly.
There are never enough of us. There are never enough teachers to uncover the needs of each child. There are never enough coaches for one-on-one service. There are not enough administrators equipped with the IT skills to handle the issues their schools are facing, but when they can’t afford a school IT team, they grimly pick up the phone to face customer service. There are so many parents who are desperately juggling jobs and sitters while their children can’t be at school.
May we all become as brave as this child. May we face today what we do not know, and walk away filled with pride instead of failure. Make us tenacious. Make us survivors. Carry us past the toilet paper shortage, and let us become invincible.
Your time can make all the difference for struggling readers. Apply to serve as a Reading Corps Interventionist and help make the future brighter for Michigan kids.