They Are Ready
By Audra Bolhuis, 9-10th Grade Teacher, Jenison, MI:
Kayonia was a quiet student when I had her in the ninth grade. She worked hard (for a ninth grader), was funny, and always loved to read even though she often struggled with reading, writing, and speech. In her last year of high school, she enrolled in Mythology with another teacher. The first week of class, she stopped by to grab a breakfast bar from me and to have a chat about her new class.
“I hope Ms. What’s-Her-Name didn’t think I was ignoring her today,” she said, not looking me in the eye, because she never did.
“Why would you say that? Didn’t it go okay in her class?” I responded, confused.
“Well, I acted like I didn’t really want to be in there today, but,” and she paused for effect, “I am actually really excited about mythology. I love gods and goddesses and all that stuff. But I acted like I didn’t today.”
Kayonia has always been a little guarded about how much she liked school. In ninth grade when I met her, she was receiving speech therapy and special education because of her struggles. As a novice teacher, I thought she definitely did not want to read a book or write a paper. As I got to know her better, I realized she did like some parts of school and needed others.
Kayonia showed up in the winter of her sophomore year without a coat, so the office got her one. In her junior year, she stopped carrying a backpack because hers was broken, so I gave her my Jansport from my years in high school. (It was still intact and ready for a second generation of high school!) Through her last day of high school this year, I could see that our school was a place she felt safe and cared for. But on this day, she admitted she was excited about learning, which was something I never really expected to hear from her. She was excited to read about mythology. She was excited to learn more about gods and goddesses (which I discovered she already knew quite a bit about). She was excited to BE excited.
I reached out to the other teacher to let her know that although Kayonia might look nonchalant in her room, she was actually engaged, interested, and ready to learn. My experience reminded me that students often are ready to learn and are thirsty for knowledge, even if they’re too cool to admit it. Even if we don’t always notice, they are ready.