Dear Rodrigo

education, photography

Dear Rodrigo,

I have to admit, you were driving me crazy in class today.

Clink, clink, clink.

At first, I couldn’t figure out where the noise was coming from.

Clink, clink.

A glimmer of light reflected off something grasped tightly in your hands. Frustrated, I walked over to see that you were playing with a stack of nickels, dimes and quarters.

“Rodrigo, put the money away, or it’s going to be mine.”

“Eleven dollars, Miss!” You whispered excitedly as the coins clinked and clanked into a plastic bag. “How much longer until the book fair?”

Thirty-three minutes later, I watched as you and your classmates scoured the shelves of shiny books, dug through the junky pencils and erasers that look like iPhones, and plowed through piles of pens that light up and make noise.

“15 minutes left” I announced to the class.

You pulled a book off the shelf and leafed through it gingerly. Checking the price, I noticed you shake your head and put it back. You did this three more times before spotting the discount table. Snatching a book, you eyed it eagerly, and with five minutes left at the fair, marched proudly to the check out.

Clink, clink, clink. You counted out each nickel, quarter and dime with care and pride, beaming when you heard the total price.

“I still have six dollars and forty-one cents!” You cried and raced back to the poster section of the store.

You were the last student at the fair.

 “Rodrigo, we really need to go,” I stressed.

“Aha!” you exclaimed, pulling a burnt-orange University of Texas poster from the pile. “Ms. Jackson, LOOK! Don’t you love it?”

 I smiled, “Yes! It’s awesome. Now let’s hurry! We gotta get you back to class.”

“Wow, Miss, I even have 27 cents left over!” Without hesitation, you plunked the change in the donation box, becoming the only student in the entire school to donate so far.

We walked into the hallway.

“Here you go!” Beaming, you handed me the poster.

“Do you want me to hold this until we get back to class?” I asked, confused.

“No, Miss, I bought it for you!” You almost skipped with excitement.

“Oh, Rodrigo, that is so thoughtful, but you should really keep it! Your parents will probably wonder what you bought today. Didn’t they give you the money to spend at the book fair?”

“No, Miss, I earned it.”

“What do you mean? Is this your allowance?”

“Not my allowance. I help my uncle with his roofing business. He usually doesn’t have any cash, so he pays me in coins.”

This gift is so meaningful to me. Thank you for spending your hard-earned money on a poster for my classroom. I admire your generosity and am honored to be the teacher of such a hard working and considerate young man.

All my love (and Hook ’em, Horns!),

-Ms. Jackson

Dear M’adri

education, photography

Dear M’adri,

I am so sorry about your loss. I know how close you were with your grandfather, and in the brief time I got to know him from the carpool line, I always enjoyed his kind spirit and warm smile. My thoughts are with your family in this difficult time.

I know you are worried about missing work while you’re gone. I have attached the assignments you will miss to this letter. Part of your homework is to write an acrostic poem with the letters of your name. I made an example for you below. Feel free to use any of the words I chose for you or to change them.

M’ADRI – an acrostic poem

Mature – a leader, a reader, this scholar sets the bar. Her sensibility and hard work will get her far.

Athletic – She’s the school’s goalie, and one of only three, 6th grade ladies to make the final team.

Dyslexic – Owning her challenges like taunts from a rival, this scholar defies the odds of reading and writing survival. The experts say she will be reluctant to read, while she ignores their predictions and volunteers to lead. For her, it might be more difficult and take more time, but this inspiring student loves to make her poetry rhyme.

Resilient – Tough is her middle name; determination is her game. All she does is win, because she never gives up or gives in.

Intelligent – Admired by her peers for her book knowledge, no one doubts this scholar is on the path to college.

I hope you feel encouraged, because every word in this poem is true. I’m here for you when you return to school, and in the mean time, you have my phone number if you want to talk.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

Dear Michael

education, photography, reading

Dear Michael,

You need to believe with every fiber of your being that you are an intelligent young man. I know that reading is a challenge for you, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you are “dumb” or “stupid.”

When I look at you – finger to the text, training your eyes and your mind to sound out the words you don’t yet know how to pronounce – I picture Jonas from The Giver. You have this ability to see beyond the words on the page. In some ways you’re limited by years of neglect from teachers who have passed you along without equipping you with the reading skills you need. And yet, every day I watch as you push yourself to overcome these limitations, gleaning the information you need to be successful from listening, observing, and applying your life experience to class.

Your comment in class today is a great example of your intelligence and thoughtfulness.

Me: “What makes Kira different from the other people in her village?”

You: “Hey Miss, could we say ‘unique’ instead of ‘different’? Different sounds negative to me, and Kira isn’t different in a bad way, you know? I mean she’s crippled, but she’s unique in good ways too, right?”

It’s not often a student who is reading on a 2nd grade level thoughtfully critiques a question I pose in class. You are a leader in my classroom, though I don’t think you see yourself that way.

When I call on you to read aloud in front of the class, I see you cringe with dread. But I also see Jerome, Lamar and Romone sit up straight in their desks and retrain their eyes on the story when you begin to read. Your courage inspires other hesitant readers to participate. The students in this classroom admire you. They want to do what you do.

Thank you for your leadership and your bravery. With perseverance and grit, reading will get easier. You will learn to read comfortably and fluently this year as long as you don’t give up on yourself and on the work I am giving you.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson