Blog Your Blessings: 63 Kids

I love my job. My job has shifted from teaching remedial reading to 235 kids to teaching it to 63 kids. I have fewer students in a more intense environment, and I am charged with helping them improve their reading skills in a big way. That translates one level on the state's annual standardized reading test.

There's no way a kid will read unless he or she has a passion for it. Kids have to believe that something is in it for them. It has to be pleasure--the pleasure of discovery and identification and possibility.

Currently we're reading S.E. Hinton's classic, The Outsiders. On the surface, this story is about the price poor kids in western Oklahoma pay at the hands of rich, vicious spoiled brats whose chief form of entertainment is picking on their poor counterparts. A deeper look reveals a story about growing up and realizing there is ample, promising truth in that cliche that we are all the same inside. In fact, the story shows just how complex that truth is.

The thrill for me is that these kids get it. They can relate to the story. One boy asked me if the poor kids, the Greasers, were Puerto Rican. "Why do you ask that?" I replied.

"Wait. Am I in trouble?"

"Nope. You're asking a great question. I just want to know what makes you ask it."

"I asked that because it's like here. And Puerto Ricans are like the Greasers."

"OK. And who are the Socs?"

"White people....mostly...."

"Fair enough."

There began a conversation about identifying with characters, connecting text to the world we live in, feeling the truth of the text.

It also began a conversation about Romeo & Juliet and West Side Story. (They want more on West Side Story.)

Another child asked how Ponyboy, the 14-year-old narrator and a central character, could talk to "a dirt bag" like Randy, a Socs, or one of the rich kids.

"Why do you call him a dirt bag?"

"Because he beat up Ponyboy."

"He did, and that makes him a dirt bag, but what has he realized?"

"That fighting doesn't pay off."

"So what does Ponyboy have to do in his heart to be able to talk to this dirt bag?"

"Forgive him. I guess."

"What's he call Randy the Dirt Bag in the end?"

"Just a guy."

I guess I could have replaced dirt bag with cruel person just to help this little guy expand his vocabulary. It seemed to me then that the truth of dirt bag was not worth giving up right them.

These kids are smart. I love every last one of them.


  1. You are a vital person in their lives, Sandy. It's wonderful that you enjoy what you do - but it does NOT surprise me.

    I was blessed with many Muses in my life, some great teachers among them. That's why I thanked them by name in my first novel.

    You will open windows of magic to these children. Believe me, that is no exaggeration.

  2. nice! so glad that you'll be having more challenges for this change. sometimes, getting out of our comfort is difficult not realizing, that we've limited our life so much of the old things.

    great post! i like the conversation. so innocent.

  3. And they love you... and I love how you draw them out, work with them, care.

    You give us such wonderful windows into their thoughts and their worlds, as well as yours. Thank you for sharing. You inspire.

  4. it is hard to see that among comfort and developed societies people still face old prejudices and clich├ęs that separate the rich from the is maybe as difficult as the want to change the color of the skin, being different, and feeling different

  5. Those kids are lucky to have you.

    I had a coworker who years ago left the energy business during a lull and taught middle school science. He said that he never worked so hard in his life.

  6. i think it's wonderful the way you are helping these children to learn more about the world around them and, even more important, about themselves. What a great post!

  7. you are the smart one, opening up your student's world and awareness. good work.

  8. You are a vital influence, Sandy; on the kids, and on us kids.

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

    pls try come by Sunday for something special.

  9. I believe you are the blessing here.

  10. Sandy, I think you are a Great Friend to these children.

  11. You are giving them your undivided attention and are genuinely interested in them as well as wanting to pass on the desire to read. Probably there is no one else in their lives who can or will do this.
    You are doing great things with them and the desire to read and the satisfaction this can bring will open up new opportunities in their life as well.

    Nuts in May

  12. ...And your love and passion is what they need...I know, I was in that position for many years...and loved all my surrogate children, for I believed in them :)

    Being unable to read deprives a person of so much in life. With the skill and knowledge, a person is equipped for the workplace and has a personal pleasure for the rest of their life :)

  13. Sandy, oh wow, what a great book to be reading with them. My favourite teacher from primary school, Rosalie Fluz, read it to her class (my class)of 12 year olds back in 1977.

    I remember her reading it and have my own copy still. It is in a bookcase that is to my left as I type this.

    Reading is a precious gift that has helped me so much during the worst of my physical health problems.

    Sending care and love, Michelle and Zebbycat

  14. I remember the boys reading the Outsiders for Literature...then reading it for the pure pleasure of it...Wallace always told me the second read was the best read.

    How lucky these kids are to have you!

  15. Reading is so important and getting kids to love it so important .. you are a fabulous teacher/mentor and those kids will make you, their parents and themselves proud!

  16. bless you for playing a pivotal role in these young minds. this is an important phase in life, the age of learning, of understanding.

    reading not only equipped us with knowledge, it also enriches us with understanding!

  17. Hi Sandy
    I left school not being able to read or write very well at all... I was around 13 and just stopped going to school.. it got me into trouble quite a lot. My dad died when I was 11 and I had a job at 12opening a fruit and veg stall.. I earned a small amount of money but also could take the produce home as well.
    I carried on getting into trouble and ended up in prison, it was there I realised what I had missed out on. I learned to read and write while I was there.... it was because someone had seen something inside me and taken the time to make me see that also. I was able to read and write when I left prison, I was a far far better person than when I went in and I can say now with hand on heart if it was not for a certain teacher ( someone like yourself ) I just do not know where I might have ended up...

    Enough of my past for one posting.. I'm sure the kids are better for your lessons.

  18. If every child had at least one teacher like you in their lives, there'd be far few dirtbags in the world. You're a gem, Sandy.

  19. "These kids are smart" They are also lucky! They are lucky because they have a teacher in you that actually cares above and beyond the norm and takes to heart the lessons in life and in the classroom that you trying to instill in them! Charlie PHELPS would be very proud of You, Sandy! I know that I am!

  20. It's a blessing to have a smaller group to teach during your day but I feel sorry for all those who don't get to have you as a teacher. . . hoping someone else is giving them a great experience like you would have. What a neat class that isn't afraid to answer and what a terrific teacher you are to understand them. YOU are their blessing as each of them with their inquisitive minds are a blessing for you.

  21. Thanks!
    For me the work with handicapped children is the most beautiful that exists!

  22. So glad the class is going well for you. I loved the outsiders as a kid-and still do. Its a book that does seem to relate to kids that age no matter where they reside-in the big city or here in the country.

  23. Hey Sandy, I am back from Hilary's Post of the Week to say hi!

  24. It would be wonderful if all teachers were like you. Hope those kids know how very fortunate they are.

    This post is so deserving of the POTW mention, Sandy!

  25. Anonymous2:57 PM

    Congrats to you for being this type of teacher! Congrats on POTW mention too.

    Finally, I remember the Outsiders from my own youth and reading several SE Hinton books, but that was my favorite (Though, That Was Then This Is Now was close runner up for me.) I read this book to my own children.

  26. Those kids are smart. So is their teacher. Giving them "the pleasure of discovery and identification and possibility" is what it's all about. Thank you for this; it well deserves Hilary's POTW, which is how I found it.

  27. Congratulations on your POTW mention at Hilary's - well deserved!

  28. Wow, what a blessing you are to your students. Thank you for being you!! Congrats on the POTW Award!!

  29. i love working with kids...those little moments you share with them opens their eyes to so much. thank you for doing that. and congrats on the POTW!

  30. Being as I'm late to class here, pretty much everything I would have said David already did. I can't say it any better than he did.


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