Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Power of Gratitude

Never underestimate the power of gratitude.

This year I have several students (Juniors) that I had as sixth graders. One of these students is a very serious boy who spends a lot of time in his own head. I recently learned that he lost his Dad in October. Couple this with the fact that his Dad was abusive, and you have a young man struggling to make sense of some very conflicted feelings. A few weeks back we passed in the hallway and it was clear that he was upset; fighting back tears, even. I pulled him into my classroom to give him some time to compose himself. He then proceeded to explain that another teacher has put him in an uncomfortable position by forcing him to talk about his Dad in class. I tried to help him make sense of people's well-meaning, albeit questionable behaviors.

 A few days later this student came to class and announced "Mrs. Blackler, I think I want to read. Can you recommend some books?" Obviously a rhetorical question ;o). I handed him Matt de la Pena's I Will Save You. That book became a fixture in his hands, each day the bookmark nudging a little closer to the final page. Soon he arrived in class, announced he was finished ("How was it?" "Good.") and asked for another. I handed him Stay With Me by Paul Griffin and assured him, despite the female figure in pink on the cover that it wasn't a "girlie" book. I continued to checked in with him, noting that good progress was being made as I covertly checked the bookmark position each day.

 Today this young man arrived in class and quickly asked "Do you have another copy of that book?"

"I do. What happened to the first copy?"

 "I left it at my cousin's house. I can't get back until the weekend, and I only have about 30 pages left. I really want to finish it." I asked him to come back at the end of the day, as it would take me a few minutes to locate the second copy. Needless to say when he returned, his request had slipped my mind. I stopped what I was doing and pointed him toward one wall of bookshelves while I navigated towards another. It didn't take long before I heard an excited "I found it." His search fulfilled, he assured me that he would finish the book tonight, return it tomorrow, and return the original copy on Monday.

 Sometimes the words "thank you" appear in magical ways. I believe that this powerful confession, "I think I want to read", came about as a result of this young man's gratitude. I validated his struggle. He repaid me by validating my passion for reading. As a teacher, book lover, and champion of literacy, it doesn't get any better. I am forever grateful.