My First Day at Edison Elementary

I just spent about an hour writing my blog for today… and then with one slip of the finger, it was gone.  I’m absolutely dead tired.  But I committed to do this and dammit, I’m gonna do it.

Today was my first day at work at Edison Elementary.   I’m working as a “reading interventionist” helping kids who are struggling a bit with their reading.  I want to do what I can to help give children a better shot in life and I don’t think there’s much more one can do that will improve a child’s chances at success  than helping them to read well.  If they can read, they can learn and if they can learn, there’s a much greater world of possibility out there for them.

I have to admit, leaving for work today, I was a bit nervous.  That’s kind of silly since I’ve been to war, spoken in front of crowds of thousands (even in Texas) and stood naked on a stage in front of a theatre full of people staring back at me.  Helping kids to read shouldn’t be scary.  But I want to do a good job.  I want to do a really good job.   So this morning  I put on nice clean white starched and pressed shirt and headed west.

When I first arrived and walked into the front office, I felt a wave of anxiety I haven’t felt since 1984.  School was not always an easy place for me emotionally.  Or maybe it was just the proximity to the principals office (as you can imagine I spent a fair amount of time there during my K-12 tenure.)  But when the principal came out and greeted me, I immediately started to feel better.  She’s a very nice lady and I imagine we’d have a few things in common if we were to ever sit down over a cup of coffee.

Straightaway, I was taken to meet Mrs. Miller.  She’s the head of the reading program at Edison.  She’s the picture of a school teacher.  “Central Casting send over School Teacher #3.”  To tell the truth, I have a fair amount of faith in my ability to help kids read better.  But when Mrs. Miller started to explain all the manuals and tools and texts I’ll be expected to use to help the kids, I started to get a little confused.  I’ll figure it all out I’m sure.  Today, I wasn’t to have any reading groups.  I was just there to shadow Mrs. Miller and to learn.  She has six reading groups per day.  I’ll only have two.  The rest of the time I’ll be helping to wrangle students around the playground, hallways and cafeteria.

I did get to meet some of the students I’ll be working with.   My fourth grade reading group will be made up of three students and I was to give them a simple quiz to test their letter recognition skills.  I went to the rooms where they were and introduced myself to their teachers and ask to borrow the students, one at a time, for a few minutes.   The first was a little Muslim girl. We’ll call her Nachid.  For our first few steps down the hall toward the reading room, I could sense her trepidation.  Serving in Iraq did give me a few things.  I turned to her and said, “Assalamu-Alaikum.”  Wide eyed she responded, “Alaikum Salam.” “That’s a beautiful hijab you’re wearing.”  “Thank you.” she smiled and touched the corner of the lavender garment with her tiny fingers.  The fact that I knew the proper name for the head scarf she was wearing seemed to seal the deal and I felt her relax a bit.  When we got to the reading room, we sat together at a small table.  (Even the “grown-up” chairs are way too small for me.)  I took out a flip chart and asked Nachid to first identify the letters to which I pointed and then to let me know how the letters sound.  She flew through the list with relative ease and then looked up at me to gage my evaluation.  I turned the chart face down on the table, looked at her and said, “You are a very smart young lady.  Have you ever given any thought to what you might like to be when you’re grown?”  She looked as if she didn’t understand the question. “You know, like a teacher or a lawyer or a scientist?”  Every bit of her earlier shyness slipped away when she looked me dead in the eye and with all the calmness and skill of a surgeon said one word: “Doctor!”  And you know what?  I believe her.

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