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Archive for the ‘The God of Providence Smiled at the Challenge-A Story’ Category

Part 8 of 8

Posted by Jack Deus on February 25, 2008

     I slowly make my way down the hallway toward Mr. Abrams office, where I am going to have a meeting with him and the Gomez’s to discuss Angel being held back to repeat third grade. I go over all of the things I will say to convince Mr. Gomez that holding Angel back is in his son’s best interest. I go over all the progress Angel and I made this year and how Angel might have a chance to actually understand what is going on in the classroom if he repeats third grade over again.

     I also go over what will happen once the Gomez’s have left and I tell Mr. Abrams I have decided not to renew my contract for next year. I try to brace myself for the disappointed look he will have, but as someone who tries to please everyone I meet, I find it hard to picture such a face directed at me. I go over my counterpoints for all of the arguments he will bring up for why I should stay. I am so caught up in these thoughts that I almost don’t notice the bulletin board outside the art classroom with all of the student’s most recent drawings. However, seeing my name on the board, I stop to look.

     At the top of the board is the big, bold print of Mr. Dewey, the art teacherOUR HEROES. Under my name, printed in the same handwriting as our heroes, are all of the drawings the kids in my class made. Surrounded by brightly colored pictures of Spiderman and John Cena, the WWE wrestler, is a picture of a woman wearing a blue short-sleeved shirt and a skirt with pink and yellow flowers on it. The artist had colored one of her hands dark brown. I look to the corner of this picture to confirm what I already knowthe name on the picture of me is Angel. I wipe a tear from the corner of my eye and continue down to Mr. Abrams office.

     When I round the corner, I see Mr. Abrams and Mr. Gomez shaking hands while Mrs. Gomez stands behind her son with her hands on his shoulders. As soon as he sees me, his eyes light up and he runs over to me and wraps his arms around my waist and buries his head in my stomach. I run my hand through his hair and hear him say, “Miss, you teach me.”

      I answer back, “Yes, Angel. I taught you this year. And you did very well. You are a very smart boy.”

     “No, miss. You teach me, always.”

     “I’m sorry, Angel, but you are going to have a new teacher next year. I don’t teach fourth grade.”

     “Angel won’t be in fourth grade next year,” Mr. Abrams chimes in. “His father just got done telling me that if you agree to continue working with Angel after school, he will sign the papers to hold Angel back and have him repeat third grade next year. Isn’t that wonderful?”

     I look up at Mr. Gomez and the smile on his face confirms what Mr. Abrams just said. For a moment I just stand there, awestruck, and for the first time in almost a year I let a few tears float freely down my cheeks. Feeling a tear drop on his head, Angel looks up at me and asks, “Why you cry, miss? You no want teach me?”

     Unable to hold it in any longer, I bend down on one knee, wrap my arms around Angel and sob.


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Part 7 of 8

Posted by Jack Deus on February 23, 2008

            “After that speech the kids starting acting like little angels. Well, everyone but Angel, ironically. He still shouted ‘chocolate Ding-Dong’ whenever he got bored, but the class was used to it and for the most part ignored him.  Despite still acting out in class, Angel is actually making great strides too. He recognizes all of the vowels and knows most of their sounds. He’s also remembering some of the consonants. I just wish there was a way to make his father see how much better off Angel would be if he could be held back, even for just one year.” I look over at the woman sitting in the chair next to the couch I am curled up on and see her writing something down on the legal pad on her lap.

When she finishes, she looks up and asks me to continue, so I say, “My husband is being really supportive of me, too. He always has dinner ready for me when I get home. He does most of the chores around the house. Any time I don’t feel like, you know, making love to him, he doesn’t pressure me or get mad. Sure, he’s a little rough around the edges and if I snap at him for no reason he will snap back but he is always there for me and we love each other dearly.”

“If you don’t mind me interrupting here, I’d like to ask you one question. Why do you think you felt the need to come to me? You had some problems with the kids in your classroom, but they are fine now, the boy you have invested so much time and energy in is making noticeable progress, and your husband sounds so charming I’d be tempted to believe you were hiding something about him except that I’ve met him myself.”

“That’s just it, Dr. Schwartz, I don’t know what’s bothering me, but deep down I have this nagging feeling like my life is hanging on by a thread. I just feel like even though school and my marriage seem to be doing fine I am always on the verge of crying.”

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Part 6 of 8

Posted by Jack Deus on February 22, 2008

            “Class! Class, quiet down, now!” I yelled after my first two attempts at gaining their attention failed. When this still didn’t work I picked up my math book and slammed in on my desk.

Instantly, eighteen heads turned towards me and seventeen mouths closed. The eighteenth mouth asked, “Miss, why you do that? You mad at us, miss?”

“Yes, Ariel, I am mad. Does anyone know why I’m mad? No, be quiet,” I snapped as a few of the students tried to answer my question. “I’m mad because you all are acting like first-graders. When you get to third grade you are expected to act like third-graders. When I ask you to be quiet, you are to be quiet. I shouldn’t have to ask you more than once to stop talking. Do you all understand?”

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Part 5 of 8

Posted by Jack Deus on February 21, 2008

            “Mr. Abrams, did you read this email from the district about Angel?” I almost screamed as I stomped across the office and stood in front of his desk.

            “Yes, of course I read it. But, please, sit down so we can talk about this calmly.”

            “Calm? How do you expect me to remain calm about this? The kid only speaks seven words clearly, reads at a Pre-K level, and yells out ‘chocolate Dong-Dong’ in my class 2 to 3 times a day when he gets bored. Does any of this matter? No! He is too advanced for a self-contained SPED classroom because he has an IQ of 74. What am I supposed to do with him?”

            “I assure you, I am doing everything I can to try to talk some sense into them, but for right now we will have to make do. Whenever Angel is becoming extremely unruly just send him down to my office, otherwise just try to minimize the distraction he causes. Also, I would like you to continue tutoring him after school. If we want him to pass the standardized tests in April I think that is our only chance. Can I count on you to do that?”

            “Sir, I really don’t think he can pass the tests, but yes, I will keep tutoring him so maybe he’ll be ready for them next year when he repeats third grade.”

            At this I could tell Mr. Abrams got a little uncomfortable because he dropped his eye contact with me and started fidgeting with the pen he had been holding. “What is it Mr. Abrams? I am going to be able to hold him back this year, aren’t I?”

            “We’ll just have to wait and see about that. The school district is very strict on their policy about holding students back. Without the parents’ permission…”

            “But Mrs. Gomez has always gone along with my…” I stopped when Mr. Abrams held up his hand.

            “Yes, Mrs. Abrams is willing to accept her child’s, uh, struggles, but how do you think Angel got to third grade without being able to recognize the letters? Every year Angel’s teacher and I have a meeting with the Gomez’s and every year Mr. Gomez refuses to accept his son’s condition. He always refuses to sign the paperwork we need to hold Angel back and I don’t have any reason to believe this year will be any different.”

            “That is absurd! How can he not understand he’s hurting Angel, not helping him by forcing us to move him up in grades?”

            “I know, I know. I go through this with him every year and every year he insists that Angel will catch up and shouldn’t be separated from his friends.”

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Part 4 of 8

Posted by Jack Deus on February 19, 2008

            “Ok, Angel, now what letter is this?” I asked while I glanced quickly at the clock. It was almost 4:45PM and I had been sitting with this child for just over an hour.

            “Chocolate Ding-Dong!” the child replied with a look of complete joy on his face as he pointed to the treat I had pulled out of my desk drawer and set next to me.

            “Yes, Angel. I have a Ding-Dong for you, but only if you keep working hard for just a little longer. Now please tell me what letter this is.”

            “A, miss. Chocolate Ding-Dong! Miss, chocolate Ding-Dong.”

            “No, Angel. This is an E,” I exasperated as I pointed to the flashcard with the capital letter E on it. “This is an A. Do you see the difference? A… E… A… E… OK, I think I hear your mom coming. Here’s your Ding-Dong. Good job today, Angel.”

            “Chocolate Ding-Dong!” he sang as he grabbed the package from my hand and ran up to his mom.

            “Como estas?” the woman asked her son as he ran up and gave her a hug. “Oh, your teacher give you Ding-Dong? You be a good boy today?” She then looked up at me as I stood near my desk, smiling at her son from across the room. “So, how he do today? He make progress?”

            “I’m sorry, Mrs. Gomez. Angel still isn’t making much progress. Since the beginning of the year I’ve only managed to teach him how to write his name and I’ve just recently started teaching him how to spell Ding-Dong, but I think he is just memorizing how to do it. He doesn’t seem to understand the letters by themselves or how they go together. We spent an hour today going over the vowels, but I bet if you asked him now to point to an O he wouldn’t be able to. I’m afraid if I don’t see some significant progress soon I will have to get him evaluated to see if he needs to be put in a self-contained special needs classroom where he can get the attention he needs and deserves. I just don’t feel an hour with me every Tuesday and Thursday after school is benefiting him as much as a self-contained classroom could.”

            “So what we do?”

            “Well, I have a specialist from the school district coming by next week to observe Angel in the classroom. He is going to see how well Angel gets along in a normal classroom environment and how well he understands what’s going on during the lessons. After his observation, he will test Angel’s academic level and IQ. He will then make a report and send it to me with his recommendations. I should have the report next Wednesday, so if you want, we can meet after school then to go over what everything means.”

            “Next Wednesday? That work for me. I see you then.”

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