Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Encouragement (02/23/12)
TITLE: Never Beyond Help
By Michelle Meyers
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Jill stepped back in an attempt to diffuse the tense situation. Her cheeks felt hot and her heart raced.
“Fine”, she replied, “I can keep him in the Resource Room 5th period.”
Jill left the classroom in defeat. Her job as a special education teacher was to advocate for these kids but this boy was creating situations that were near to impossible to fix. Griffen had come to Jefferson Junior High 2 weeks ago, in the middle of the semester, and had managed to get kicked out of science, gym, and now history. Jill fully realized the disruptions Griffen caused, talking constantly, back talking the teachers, tearing pages out of books and vandalizing desks, and the new student was already a frequent flyer in the principal’s office. But it was up to her to find a way to make this work.
Jill made her way downstairs to her own classroom. Her teaching assistant Rachel looked up from her work as Jill entered.
“I can tell by the look on your face it did not go well,” Rachel said sympathetically.
“No, Mr. Paul wants him out. Griffen disrupts the class and can’t do the work.”
“Do you want me to work with him? “Rachel offered.
“I really need you in 7th grade science helping the resource kids in there.”
Jill remained at her desk long after most of the staff had gone home. The paperwork was near to endless in this job especially with 33 kids on her caseload. Sighing deeply, she leaned back and closed her eyes.
“What to do about Griffen?” she said aloud to the empty office. He had one of the lowest IQs she had encountered as a Special Ed. Teacher, and his home life was a disaster: divorced parents, living with Dad because Mom can’t handle him, and a brother in jail. It was like a perfect storm of circumstances making this child almost beyond help.
Jill set up quickly. No. She refused to believe any kid was ever beyond help. She crossed the room to the cupboard holding various books and began searching. She knew she had a science curriculum and one for American history that would work for an 8th grader who was reading at a 2nd grade level. She found them and headed for the copy room.
On her way out, the poster over the doorway caught her eye. ”Encouragement Zone” was emblazoned in large red letters on a black background. She had purchased that poster at the teacher’s store in her first year of teaching, and it was how she liked to think of her classroom, a place of encouragement, because heaven knows these kids needed just that.
It had been a tough 3 weeks with Griffen but here they sat again working through a chapter of history.
“I suppose you want me to do these questions?” he asked with just a touch of attitude.
“Of course, just like always,” Jill replied with a smile,” Remember you will find the answers in the chapter you just read.”
Griffen grumbled as he excavated a 2 inch pencil from his backpack. Jill reached over to her desk and pulled a new pencil from the holder.
“Here, this will make writing those answers a little easier.”
“Thanks,” he said, barely audible. Jill shifted in her seat. They had been working together and had managed to cover a lot of ground. He had been full of orneriness and slow to get anything down at first, but as they met each day, and Jill refused to get caught up in his behavior, things had settled down.
“Done” he pushed the paper toward her.
“Great”, Jill responded,” Why don’t you get packed up.”
He began to shove his notebook into his backpack. Jill noticed he seemed to be biting his words.
“Something on your mind?” she asked.
“I don’t understand the point of me leaning this stuff,” he blurted out,” All my family is messed up so I will be too. There is no point!
“Look,” Jill crossed the room to him,” You have the power to make better choices for yourself. I know it’s not easy, and you might feel hopeless, but you’re not.”
Jill was worked up now.
“You’ve been working hard and your work has improved,” she spoke emphatically,” You can do this Griffen, and your life can be better.”
He looked sheepishly up at her, pushed his hair from his eyes and said simply “Thanks.”
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