It was January 2004. I was a Mild/Moderate Special Education teacher and I only had 104 days left of being a teacher before I began a new career. I had been working with Tania since she was in the 5th grade. In the 5th grade she struggled to read two letter words, in the 6th grade she struggled to read short sentences. In the 7th grade she struggled to read a paragraph. Suddenly, literally as quick a lightening this beautiful child in the 8th grade sat beside me and started reading.
I was sitting with three students on that Tuesday morning. Tania sat to my left, Jacob in front of me and Sam next to Jacob. We all had our books and we were individually reading a paragraph aloud and then the next person was to begin reading. Tania’s turn approached and I was prepared for the laborious attempt. She opened her mouth and words did not dangle from her lips, they took off like a jet. She read a word, then words, then sentences, then a paragraph, then another, then a page, then pages.
The words started to sound like a calm night sky when the wind ever so slightly whistles through the trees and the warm air soothes your troubles and you find comfort in the darkness. She didn’t stumble or trip over difficult words. She didn’t hesitate. She didn’t look at me with the look of defeat that I have seen so many times before. She didn’t slump her shoulders as the words fell apart in her mind and mouth. She simply sat there gracefully reading us a story about a life of a tortured child. She was no longer tortured. Her eyes sparkled with victory.
The other two kids slowly lifted their heads and glanced at me as Tania continued to read and each of us made eye contact and acknowledged the tears that sat so comfortably in each of our eyes. My heart filled with a passion that erupted like volcano. I struggled to take each breath, but I sat as still as I could so as not to disrupt the miracle before me.
How was I to emotionally process such an amazing moment? I had the sudden urge to run down the hall and tell her previous teachers, the teachers who became so frustrated with her that they simply gave up on her. I wanted to take her by the hand and dash into their respective classrooms and have her read to them, but then I remember that there is 90% turnover rate for teachers in public school and none of Tania's former teachers would be there to applaud her amazing accomplishment. Another public school mishap. Who cares!!!!!!! Today, Tania can read!! I don’t care about the district problems. Tania can read! Today I don’t care about the schools problems because Tania can read! I don’t care if that 7th grader, Donnie, punches me in the face, which is a strong possibility, but I don’t care, because today Tania can read. I don’t care if my pay gets cut again, because today Tania can read. I don’t care about the parents who don’t care, I don’t care about the teachers who don’t teach, I don’t care about the principals that don’t lead because today …. today, .. Tania can read.!!!
The phone rang a few years later, it was Tania’s mother. She simply stated, “Tania and I would like to formally invite you to watch Tania receive her diploma at her high school graduation tomorrow.”
-excerpt from a larger piece of writing that I am currently editing