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. This is the sec­ond in a series of sto­ries writ­ten by peo­ple who are in the school observ­ing what is hap­pen­ing on a reg­u­lar basis. Actual names of writ­ers, stu­dents and staff mem­bers have been changed.

I met Sophia in first grade, such a sweet, sweet lit­tle girl with pret­ty brown hair and a great smile. We bond­ed quick­ly. Our friend­ship con­tin­ued through 6th grade. I met with her once a week to work on read­ing.

Sophia’s Hispanic fam­i­ly includ­ed five chil­dren. Because of our long rela­tion­ship, I got to know her strong and lov­ing moth­er at school. Her step­fa­ther worked dai­ly; her moth­er made beau­ti­ful crafts that she sold in the park. At one time the chil­dren were sleep­ing on the floor of their apart­ment due to bed bugs. Because of my rela­tion­ship with her moth­er, I was able to work with a group who donat­ed mon­ey to buy new mat­tress­es and bed frames for the chil­dren.

Sophia had a pre­ma­ture birth. Before enter­ing school she was in an acci­dent leav­ing her with a brain con­cus­sion. She was eager to learn, but it was quite appar­ent her cog­ni­tive skills were very slow. Sight words were dif­fi­cult to remem­ber, but oh how much she want­ed to pre­tend and guess the words. Her teach­ers gave me no direc­tion, often say­ing, “Do with her what you can.” It seemed to me they had decid­ed she couldn’t learn or it took time to teach her they did not have. She was ignored since she was not a trou­ble­mak­er. I asked each year about spe­cial help. Often the staff would say her moth­er had not signed on for help.

Since the teach­ers had appar­ent­ly done noth­ing to get extra help for Sophia, I final­ly talked with the prin­ci­pal myself. She imme­di­ate­ly made Sophia’s new jour­ney begin. Miss D, the spe­cial Education teacher, and an ELL (English Language Learner) teacher began inten­tion­al work with Sophia. Ms. D taught her prac­ti­cal rea­sons to learn math, like count­ing change when shop­ping. Sophia became excit­ed about her car­ing teach­ers who under­stood her lim­i­ta­tions but pushed her to go for­ward. She thrived and seemed so hap­py with her progress.

Sophia moved on to mid­dle school, and I have lost track of her. I can only hope that she is not being ignored and is pro­gress­ing with teach­ers who under­stand and wish to help her suc­ceed. How very sad that Sophia was left behind in her ear­li­er school years. I wor­ry about who will care for her and advo­cate for the spe­cial atten­tion she needs. What will hap­pen to Sophia If she can­not read and com­pute at very basic lev­els?

—A Volunteer

Read the first post in this series, about Daniel

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