Do the Right Thing for Kids is pub­lish­ing sto­ries like the fol­low­ing in order to pro­vide under­stand­ing of what is hap­pen­ing and not hap­pen­ing in the Kansas City School District class­rooms and why edu­ca­tion­al achieve­ment is not improv­ing sig­nif­i­cant­ly. These sto­ries are writ­ten by peo­ple who are in schools on a reg­u­lar basis. Actual names of writ­ers, stu­dents and staff mem­bers have been changed.

The prin­ci­pal asked me if I would tutor Daniel, an ear­ly ele­men­tary school stu­dent. Tutor may be the wrong word. I was at the school to tutor stu­dents, but she actu­al­ly said that Daniel need­ed some­one to be nice to him. He’s had a chal­leng­ing life.

Daniel jumped for joy when he was told I was going to read with him each week. He wrapped his arms around me in a hug.

Daniel was in the fos­ter care sys­tem. He told me at our first ses­sion that his dad had been shot and killed when he was a tod­dler. I searched his father’s name on and found he was killed by a bar­rage of bul­lets in the mid­dle of the night in the back seat of a car. Daniel knew most of the hor­ri­ble facts.

He asked me if I would give him a jour­nal. He wrote lit­tle mes­sages to his father.

By keep­ing our ses­sions mov­ing, ask­ing him to sit up straight with his feet on the floor, and peri­od­i­cal­ly giv­ing him oppor­tu­ni­ties to get up from the desk and run lit­tle errands for me, Daniel kept focused on sight words or work­sheets the teacher gave me that meant noth­ing to him. I won­dered how he could pos­si­bly do them with­out assis­tance; his read­ing was very lim­it­ed and his atten­tion short. In the class­room with his class­mates, I saw what a chal­lenge he was for the teacher. As I entered the room, the teacher would say for all to hear, “He’s not doing any­thing in here. He might as well go with you,” or “He’s been ter­ri­ble this morn­ing; can’t do the work.” I felt Daniel’s humil­i­a­tion.

With a new teacher this fall, on sev­er­al occa­sions I saw Daniel cir­cling the perime­ter of the class­room until he would do some­thing that caught her atten­tion. She would yell at him from behind her desk. I’d seen this before with anoth­er stu­dent and anoth­er teacher. That stu­dent kept spin­ning around the room, becom­ing more reck­less until he knocked over a book­case. I’ve observed that by not giv­ing stu­dents atten­tion or prop­er­ly man­ag­ing the class­room, teach­ers cre­ate sit­u­a­tions for the stu­dents to mis­be­have and pos­si­bly get hurt or hurt oth­ers. Daniel had been neglect­ed at home and now in his class­room.

Daniel was often sent to anoth­er class­room, a grade below him. He liked that; he said the teacher was nice to him. Another vol­un­teer start­ed work­ing with him and wrote me, “Daniel is unfo­cused and not pick­ing up sight words eas­i­ly. BUT – he is such a sweet­ie.”

Daniel is sus­pend­ed. I don’t know why. I wor­ry about his future. He is smart, has love in his heart and much poten­tial. Does the Kansas City Public Schools have the will to edu­cate Daniel?

Read the next post in this series, about Sophia

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