Each tiny step was a triumph for Toby. Just getting through a day at school without getting into trouble was a monumental achievement. He was the kind of kid that teachers both love and hate. Not that it was politically correct to say you hated a child. He was the sort of child that used up all the educational euphemisms in a single description. He was educationally challenged, behaviorally challenged and socially challenged. Toby was a difficult child.
Toby arrived at school each day in a state of dishevelment. His jet black hair stuck up and out in all directions and his clothes had unbuttoned gaps. He would race into class when the other children had just settled down and manage to unsettle them again in a flash. He always made a grand entrance and, try as she could to have the children ignore him, the teacher could not. Invariably there was uproar. Someone's foot was trodden on or someone copped a kick.
It was the highlight of his class teacher's day when Toby went out for remedial assistance with Julia. Calm would descend and the class seemed to let out a communal sigh. And Toby, he was in his element as the focus of Julia's attention. He enjoyed his special status as one of her 'legends'.
Julia called all her special kids 'legends' and to her they were. Still young enough to enjoy being singled out for help the children she worked with loved their times with her. She was employed and funded by a special grant so she could work with one child at a time and tailor a program to suit each child. Each day she saw them take baby steps forward, and sometimes a few backwards, as they worked on their reading, writing and spelling skills.
Today ten-year old Toby was making some progress. He was beginning to understand that an 'e' on the end of words turns the 'i' to an 'I' sound. Away from his class-mates and their derisive looks he was learning at his own level, way below that of most children his age. Julia rewarded every tiny achievement with stickers and points that would eventually add up to some 'game time'. Positive reinforcement worked wonders with Toby.
Julie listed words where the 'I' rule applied and together they made sentences using the words. Toby copied the words, covered them, then wrote them again. He found the words on pages of print, used them to fill gaps in sentences and to complete rhymes. It was 'I' immersion and he was getting it.
'This bike is like mine, ' he wrote next to picture of a bike.
Julia wondered if her own vocabulary might start to become monosyllabic now she was spending her days reading small words and stilted sentences. But she loved her job and the raggle-taggle children she taught. And today Toby was reminding her why she felt that way. A grin stretched across his face.
'Toby, I want you to think of something that is important to you and write me one or two sentences about it. Try to include an 'I' word.'
'Can it be about my dog?' Toby asked.
'Of course. What's your dog's name?'
'Drippy,' said Toby.
He slowly wrote a sentence and then another, then looked up in triumph.
'I wrote two sentences about Drippy, and I put two 'I' words in it!' he grinned, shoving the paper under Julia's nose. She read what he had written.
'Dripy is my kinde dog. He wines a lot.'
She didn't have the heart to correct him. Not today.
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