Friday, December 9, 2011

A Man's Reach Should Exceed His Grasp

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for? 
                         - Robert Browning
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter’s teacher was reviewing her reading for the month.  They are required to read a certain number of pages each month.  This started to annoy me, but if you put more than one second of thought into it, you realize there are no perfect ways to quantify something as elusive, personal and individual as a love of reading. 
Of course, she had read the required amount.  This is a battle we have never had to fight with her.  I am not talking about reading, but getting her work done.  She is a hard worker, very conscientious.  
I could picture her teacher, sitting on her stool, at the front of the room, with her roll away table pulled up to her, maybe with a computer, maybe not.  Her teacher has taught 5th grade at this school for 28 years, but doesn’t look like she has been teaching that long.  Her wisdom helps me believe, though.  I wouldn’t call her soft spoken; she is decidedly strong and confident in anything she says.  However, she never raises her voice.  
Chloe had most recently read the first in a series of books.  She told me that her teacher had told her to stay away from those books - they were too hard for her.  Although Chloe received 100% in the overall category, her teacher had marked that she had not chosen appropriately leveled books to read.  
I’m absolutely positive that the teacher did this discreetly, not only because I know her, but because that would have been the first thing Chloe told me if it weren’t the case.  

She picked the book because many of her friends were reading it - one of the biggest reasons I choose to read a book. It is fun to talk about with your friends, a way to bond.  
Dyslexia has hampered her ability to bond, to be a part of the group in so many ways.  Last year, her teacher told us she was passing notes in class to the point of disruption.  I have no doubt that she didn’t appreciate our inability to hide our joy in her joining the ranks of the girly note writers.  For years, her ability and then her confidence was a barrier to this  important social step.  

Every mother knows how heartbreaking it is to watch your child hurt and not be able to do anything to assuage the pain.  The knowledge of how hard she has tried, and struggled with reading over the years, reminds me now that this wound is, after all these years, still open and raw. 

As Chloe shared this with me, I listened.  A sensitive subject, always, but there was more.  A new thread.  A new discovery about herself.  And the world.  “I understood most of the book.  Maybe not all of it.  But I finished it, and I enjoyed it.”
A pause.  Thoughts swirling in her head.  I don’t push.  I don’t try to fix it or comfort her.  
“You know, I don’t think I would have read the next one anyway.  But,  it doesn’t feel good being told that I can’t read more.” 
Oh so thats how you feel.  Wow.  I might have expressed those feelings more like this:  “Expletive you.  It’s a free country and I will read it if I want to.” 

I am not going to let this one sentence take over, but it deserves a nod.  There is so much in that nugget.  She took the information, and processed it.  Chloe trusts her teacher immensely, so values what she says. Instead of letting her defenses take over in a vulnerable time, she chewed on it.  She may have realized that her teacher was right.  She moved on, acknowledging the teacher’s authority.  She acknowledged her feelings, but was able to stay objective.  She would not read the series just because her friends were reading it. She tried their suggestion, and realized it didn’t work for her, for whatever reason.  Their is so much valuable information in her observation: trust, insight, strength, processing, expression, courage.  

Man, am I glad I don’t allow electronic devices in our car these days.  I may not have had this conversation with her. 
Within a week, my son, who is also dyslexic, had a similar experience with his teacher.  He was walking up to check out a book in the library and his teacher asked to look at it.  According to him, she shook her head and said, “I don’t think so, Chaucer.”  
He is not as much of a reporter as my girls, so the mere mention of this lets me know how it has affected him.  He had started the conversation with, “Have you ever heard of a book called The Fourth Stall?” 
He doesn’t like to talk too much about these things, so I casually acknowledged, “That doesn’t sound like it felt very good to you,” and I googled it on the computer and pulled up a You Tube video of the author answering questions about the book.  We watched the interview, his attention never wavering.  At the end he said in an apparently sassy tone, but I know the voice was protecting him, “Yeah, that sounds good but too bad I can’t read it.”  
He was still hurt.  I couldn’t kiss this one away, so I continued.  I pulled up sample pages on Amazon, pulled him in my lap, and asked him to read.  It took less than a paragraph for him to realize that his teacher was right in her assessment, if not soft in her delivery.  
“O.K. This is too hard.  Could we get the book and you read it to me, Mom?” 
Of course, my son.  

1 comment:

  1. I love how you can stay in observation mode with your kids and not fix or force things. I am still learning how to do that ... and how awesome is it that you are reading to your kids what they want to read themselves. What a gift!