Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Is It Going to Take?

Less-delightful news from Inauguration Day:

Some of you may recall my earlier post about S, a good-at-heart but problematic young man in Class B. After the heart-to-heart with his guardian and the exhaustive and unpleasant letter I sent home last week, I was sure that S would be prepared for his book talk on Tuesday.

"Hi, S," I said to him in the cafeteria that morning.

"Hi, Miss Eyre," S said to me. He waved a packet of papers at me, some practice exercises I had sent home for him to get ready for the ELA exam.

"Great," I said. "So are you ready for your book talk this morning?"

He hung his head. "No," he said.

I assigned his book talk two weeks ago. I reminded his guardian that his book talk was coming up Tuesday when I talked to him last week. He was allowed to choose any book, on any subject--even magazines and blogs are acceptable. I don't care about the books' reading levels or genres or anything. The kids just have to give a short talk and lead a discussion about something they are reading. It seems like an assignment that is open to enough differentiation for every child to succeed: Even if the kid is not a good oral reader or speaker, they can choose an easy book that they have read many times before. I got this idea for daily book talks from a PD I attended last year about differentiating reading instruction in middle schools.

S, for whatever reason, just leaves me speechless. I couldn't even respond when he told me that he couldn't do his book talk. I just walked away. I really did. That probably wasn't cool. But I wasn't interested in a story, I didn't want to know why eight million things were more important than his book talk, whatever. I just didn't want to hear it.

How to get this kid to pass? Damned if I know.