Saturday, March 18, 2006

Smart and Compassionate

This is kind of a work post, but it's more of a Mommy post, so I'm putting it here.

Yesterday, the girls had the day off from school and my boss (CT) told me to stay home with them rather than try to find an all-day sitter. It turned out, though, that my boss needed a ride home from work - and I needed to drop important documents off at the big boss's office - so the girls and I headed over right around quittin' time.

We arrived a little early to avoid the mad dash that is a high school at quittin' time, and got to sit in on the last twenty mintues or so of my last class of the day; a literacy lab populated by six freshmen who did so poorly on their standardized tests that they been remanded to remedial English instruction.

CT had them sitting around one of the big tables in the room, reading an excerpt from Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood about the author's experience as a ten year old during the Iranian Revolution. CT handed the girls a copy (they're both in LOVE with Calvin and Hobbes and, as a result, are no strangers to the comic book medium) and, though Beanie went off on her own to finish reading her new Ranger Rick magazine, Punkin' Pie pulled up a seat to read along with the class.

Now, these students are in this class in the first place because their literacy skills are less than adequate. Punkin' Pie sat there and listened to the students read the parts they'd chosen before we arrived and, at one point, I whispered to her asking if she'd like to join in and read a part. She told me no, and I respected that, thinking that she was shy. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed at the time, though. Both my daughters are excellent readers and I thought that Punkin' Pie would have gained a lot of self-confidence by showing that she could keep up with the big kids.

CT and I asked her, after the class was over, why she chose not to read. It turns out that she wasn't shy at all, but was concerned about how it would seem to the other kids.

"I think I read better than those kids," she told us, "and I didn't want them to feel bad."

She didn't say this in a way that made us think that she was being arrogant. She was genuinely concerned about how these kids, who are six years older than she, would feel about having a third grader come in and do effortlessly what some of them were struggling to get through.

It was, for me, another moment similar to that I described in the racquetball court. For all the time I scold Punkin' Pie lately for not being aware of others around her, it turns out that she really IS. And that she's thoughtful and sensitive enough to recognize when she can do something about it.

I am so proud of her.


Blogger Kizz said...

Since I read this I've been trying to figure out a way to phrase this nicely and I've got nothing so please know that it's meant nicely despite it coming across in print like I'm a flaming bitch.

Didn't you and CT think that it might be embarrassing, hurtful and possibly counterproductive to invite a third grader into a lesson that was proving difficult for these ninth graders?

10:41 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

I understand your tone, but thanks for the preface.

It wasn't as though the girls were brought in for show and tell or to make some kind of point to the freshmen; I had to be there and had them with me. I also think that the scene may have played out differently if the kids were working on something OTHER than what is, essentially, a comic book. The grade level, for all intents and purposes, is right around third anyway. Finally, the situation was mediated by the fact that there's a Japanese exchange student in the class for the next few weeks, and his weak English skills are more of a focus for the students than the girls were.

That being said, you're absolutely right; there could have been a lot of trouble and hurt feelings if Punkin Pie had been in the mood to show off. I'm glad I brought her in, though. Not only am I proud of the fact that she's sensitive enough to recognize when to be discreet, but I also wanted her to see what I do every day. There have been some tensions in my household lately while we all adjust to the idea of Mommy's possibly getting a "real" job next year, and I wanted my children to know that what I do is important and worthwhile.

4:06 PM  

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