They found a cluttered desk with papers hanging out the sides and several tests with low grades wadded up and crammed in the back behind the books. There were broken pencils and crumbly remains of various snacks stuck in between notebooks and journals. But they didn’t find what we were looking for.
They read through mountains of papers describing his early life, the concerns of teachers in earlier grades, and a record of poor grades. There were notes from meetings describing parent concerns and suggestions from school personnel. Scores on assessments revealed average results, nothing that justified further evaluations. Progress monitoring records revealed a pattern of inconsistency but overall growth. And still they couldn’t find what they sought.
They saw a disinterested manner in class, a lack of engagement, wrong answers when called on, and a sullen expression. They saw frequent bathroom visits, lots of pencil sharpening, repeated funny faces directed to a student across the room. And still what they wanted to find was nowhere in sight.
Since the boy had begun to struggle in school, the child they once knew had been missing. They were looking for the child who used to giggle, and ask questions, and tell long stories about every step he was taking. They couldn’t find the boy who laughed when he made a mistake and asked for help when he needed a hand.
And no matter how hard they looked in the data, and the papers, and the classroom setting, they couldn’t find the true soul of the little boy they once knew.
And then along came that teacher, who looked in his eyes and said, “I know how smart you really are. Can I teach you that so you will know it too?” And at last, the young man sighed, and gave a hint of a hopeful smile.