Defying Expectations

Defying Expectations

ASHLEY OSENTOSKI, K-3 Literacy Interventionist

As a returning Reading Corps member, coming back to this program has been a fantastic experience. In these turbulent times, it feels more important than ever to provide a support network for students whose young lives have been suddenly and dramatically changed. Things feel uncomfortable and uncertain, and students have had to quickly learn how to adapt. I’ve been so impressed by the ability of these children to rapidly adjust to online learning. They’ve shown incredible patience and resilience throughout our virtual sessions together.

There is one student in particular, who I will call N.J., who really stands out in my mind. He is a 3rd Grader who is balancing online schooling with providing care for younger siblings while his mother sleeps before working 3rd shift. During our sessions, we will frequently be interrupted by siblings and their friends being loud and disruptive in the background, which he will have to step away and deal with. While I can tell that he’s annoyed at being interrupted, he does a fantastic job of not letting it impact his attitude when we work together.

N.J. is a student who is particularly close to my heart because he is at a high risk of becoming a statistic. He has a very turbulent home life with several incarcerated family members, and he runs into frequent disciplinary issues when in-person school is in session. I often see him being led down to the principal’s office due to behavioral issues in class. He has been told by his mother that if he doesn’t behave himself, he will be sent to a juvenile detention facility. Before we started working together, I was warned that “he will probably be the worst part of your day”, so I prepared myself for the worst.

What I encountered instead, is a kid who just needs someone to be there for him and give him your full attention. He’s clever, funny, caring, and overall just an absolute delight to work with one-on-one. He focuses well on his work, and beams with pride when I tell him how well he’s doing. As we’ve gotten to know each other and he’s shared more of the details of his life with me, it’s painted a much clearer picture of why he feels the need to act out for attention. I’ve tried to really double down on praising him for his hard work and good attitude when we work together, and the results have been fantastic. One day, as he was walking back to class, he stopped to stick his head in the dean’s office to tell her “I did good today!” Seeing the impact that our work together is having on his confidence and self-esteem has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I can’t wait to see what else we can accomplish together.