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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