After grading Unit Tests for about 3 hours, I noticed pretty unremarkable things with my kids. One particular kid that certainly stood out to me is Jamarr W.
Jamarr joined my class after being kicked out of his previous elementary school due to discipline issues. He is diagnosed with ADHD issues and currently has an IEP issued for him.
“Kids like this just fell through the cracks! He doesn’t belong here,” one of the administrators vented to me. “I’m just waiting for him to get kicked out by the principal.”
Call me naive or call me what you want, but I never saw Jamarr as a nuisance. I saw a lot of potential hidden by a lot of frustration and anger. His behavioral issues arise from a very troubled background and a great desire to fit in. As a first year student in my class, you must find your way to fit in, since most kids have been classmates since kindergarten. As he continued to struggle to focus and to fit in, the checks began to mount in my class. Other students began to pick on Jamarr, and he couldn’t find another out but to fight back. As a result, he wasn’t getting the material. His grades suffered as a consequence. He consistently earned 20% – 50% on my exit slips and refused to come after school for help.
Coming back from a terrible week, however, Jamarr seemed quiet – it was a chance to break through to him. As he was getting ready to go home, I pulled him aside. I showed him how he earned 17 checks the previous week, and wasn’t doing so well academically. I posed him a challenge that he would be able to earn my prestigious scholar of the week award the next week, if he brought down his checks to at most 3, and earned 85% on his exit slips (my big goal). In order to do so, he must only pay attention to me and follow my directions, because by doing so other students would follow his footsteps, and he would be a leader in my class. He would also raise his hand and ask questions to improve his grade, as opposed to getting frustrated and bothering other kids when he didn’t get the material. He simply nodded and walked away.
The next day, he came up to me and asked me if the challenge is still on. ‘Of course,” i exclaimed. “Alright, I am getting Scholar of the Week this week then!” He replied.
It was amazing to see such turn around so fast. I could see Jamarr struggle to keep his focus on me, especially with his condition, but I saw him raise his hand and ask questions, and follow my directions so I could narrate his behavior. His behavioral checks went down from 17 to 2. His exit slips scores increased from 20% to high 80%. He continued to iprove academically, and earned a 81% on his Unit Test. He earned the Scholar of the Week for the following week.
I made Jamarr call his mom afterwards. Once she picked up, I noticed that she sounded annoyed. Once Jamarr told her the news, I could only hear screams coming from the phone. Jamarr just smiled proudly and as she passed the phone to me, she shouted, “We did it! I knew he could do it!”
Our work is not done with Jamarr, but certainly this is a huge turn around from a kid who only was told no all his life.