Something has finally clicked. There are 16 days left in the school year, and I finally feel like something is going the way it should. Two examples:
My second graders take the ANET tests. These are standardized assessments created by Achievement Network that test Common Core Standards. My kids take the literacy ANET 4 times a year, and the math ANET 5 times a year, and all year long, I have been battling this test with my 3 second graders who are NOT good at standardized tests. We took the last literacy test about 2 weeks ago, and my kids blew it out of the park. Greggory is autistic, brilliant, but has a really hard time with questions that are problem solving/conceptualizing/etc. and also has a nasty habit of guessing for the sake of being finished. Neaveh is the sweetest kid, she has mild hearing loss and difficulty processing, and also a nasty habit of speeding through and only doing the minimum. AJ has ADHD and a developmental learning delay, he can’t focus on a question to save his life. We have been working on these struggles all year, and finally, when they took the ANET, Greggory scored 75%, Nevaeh 72%, and AJ a 69% the highest they have ever scored, and the equivalent of a Proficient MCAS score. I was over the moon about this. I could not believe how well they had done, and in literacy, which is their biggest struggle (all three of them struggle with comprehension). Today, we took the last math ANET. I tested Nevaeh separately, and tried incredibly hard not to jump out of my seat and hug her while she was testing. She was reading each question, checking her answers, and even went back and re-checked the one problem she got wrong. She scored 100%. I was literally tearing up as I dropped her off in the classroom. I later found out that AJ and Greggory also scored 100%. Let me just say it…I bawled. I couldn’t help it. I was SO proud of my kiddos. They did unbelievable work, and have a new found sense of confidence in their ability to succeed.
Now if that wasn’t enough, I also have a great social-success story from today. One of my other second graders, Kerianne has been out sick for almost three weeks with an incredibly rare blood and heart condition. She finally was able to come back on Tuesday and is very happy to be back, laughing, smiling and generally slipping back into the swing of things very easily. She did not come to school on Wednesday for a follow-up appointment in Boston, and Wednesday is the day that her lunch group meets. I took her group as usual and asked them if they wanted to do something special to welcome Kerianne back tomorrow (Thursday/today). All of a sudden they were shouting out incredible suggestions, cards, a banner, a party, snacks, all kinds of really kind things. Now this doesn’t sound too amazing until you hear the makeup of the group:
August: Adorable, incredibly active, slightly ASDish (no diagnosis), but basically all cylinders firing at once, usually to the detriment of everyone around him
Serenity: Sweet, quiet, shy, but STUBBORN. If she doesn’t get it her way, she will have a complete and total temper tantrum
Kyleigh: Little girl with a BIG personality. Too cool for anyone else, thinks she is the greatest thing in the second grade, loves to talk back to teachers, you get the point
Shaniece: The culmination of this group. A 9 year old in second grade, held back twice, angry at the whole world, seemingly apathetic family, feels like no one loves her so she lashes out instead.
You can imagine how things can play out (especially with Kyliegh and Shaniece together), and you can imagine my fears about trying to organize something with this particular group. Well, they proved me wrong in so many ways. I taped together some paper, asked who had the best handwriting, and let them go about making a banner for Kerianne for the next day. I stood back, prepared to break up a squabble, even if it was a “hey! I was using that marker!” (Which often turns into a MUCH bigger debacle). I didn’t have to intervene at all (other than to say, ‘hey! If you keep giggling this loud Ann (the speech/language pathologist) won’t be able to hear her kids!’) It was the coolest thing to watch. I still had doubts about their ability to make it truly about Kerianne the next day though. This group can be broadly called my “me-me-me” group. Today, I picked them up as usual, and Kyliegh whispered to me that they all decided they wanted to go in first and yell ‘surprise!’. With my fingers crossed, I agreed and distracted Kerianne as I had been ordered to do. It was AMAZING. They were 100% about Kerianne, “look! we made this because we love you!” “We missed you Kerianne!”, again, I was in tears (I waited until they went to PE!). I didn’t even mind when their voices got loud enough to sound like a playground. It was the greatest social experience I have witnessed in the entire year.
I finally feel like I am getting through to some of these kids. They are happier, more confident and making strides that I never thought possible in a single year. I can finally sit back and say “YES!”