The following narrative is written from the third-person omniscient point of view. Keep in mind that the teacher, working with a small group of students in the back of the classroom, does not have all of the information that you, the reader, do.
January rolled in and it was time to prepare for the State Testing that would descend upon the campus in Spring. Isaiah Sanchez’s accomplished teacher had formatively assessed the class’s knowledge of the material they would encounter on the test and then differentiated instruction by grouping the class by their results. She had a “remediation group,” with whom she was working closely at her “teacher table,” an “extension group” working independently, and the rest of the students she asked to read silently. Of course, she didn’t label the groups, but the discerning student could guess how the groups were organized by observing who was in each group.
Isaiah was in the silent reading group, but he was bored and listening to the extension group tackle some math challenges that he knew he could do. His friend Aiden (who never let anybody forget that he was in the gifted and talented program) was in the extension group and having a very interesting conversation about which graphs best represent the data. Isaiah wondered: why couldn’t he work with them? His teacher was always telling them to “challenge themselves,” so he walked over to interrupt her as she struggled through story problems with a group of five very frustrating students.
“Ms. Teacher, I’m bored. Can I work with that group?”
She signed. “No, Isaiah. I need you in the silent reading group. Don’t worry about it, you’re fine. You approached the standard on the assessment.”
Isaiah just stood there, frowning in protest. The teacher was eager to get back to her small group tutorials, and she didn’t tell Isaiah this, but she did not want him joining the group of high-performing students because she viewed him as having a behavior issue, and expected him to get the other students off task.
“You’re good!” She repeated. “You did as well as you could on the assessment.”
“What do you mean?” Isaiah persisted. Now the teacher was getting frustrated with him.
“You did as well as anyone would expect. Now please go sit down.”
“...as well as you could,” “..as anyone would expect.” These words stuck in Isaiah’s mind as he begrudgingly trudged back to his desk. As he did so, his eyes traveled to his teacher’s desk, where for some reason, he saw his name handwritten on a list and “SPED” scrawled in big letters next to his name. He was confused. He knew he was only in the Special Education program because of his challenges articulating certain letter sounds. Perhaps his teacher knew something he didn’t? He glanced up to see Aiden smiling smugly at him. He must have overheard his conversation with the teacher because he mouthed: “DUMBY” to Isaiah.
That was all it took. Isaiah stood up from silent reading with a growl and threw his desk across the classroom.
When we understand the child’s behavior as an expression of what they do not have words to say, we change our response to that behavior. We no longer try to shape their behavior, instead, we try to listen.
I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from amazing heroes in education - in Texas, Honduras, California, and all over the United States!