Four years ago, I had a 9th grader named Nick in Spanish 1. He had dishwater-blond hair cut to about ½” all over his head with a perpetual rooster tail sticking up on the crown of his head. Glasses. Tall, lanky, a little shy, and polite. On an IEP, they told me before the first day of class that Fall. IEP said that due to his learning disabilities, it was not recommended that he take Spanish at the high school level after he finished 8th grade, but that he really wanted to take Spanish anyway, and due to his persistence, they had decided to let him try it, and he was allowed to enroll in my class. I was asked by his SPED case manager and his mom that if it didn’t seem like he was going to make it in Spanish, to be sure and let them know within the first few weeks of school so they would still have time to put him in a different elective before he got in over his head; they stressed that he was only in Spanish because he had insisted on being given the chance to try it.
As soon as I heard all this information, I made Nick the “presidente” of Costa Rica on my seating chart. Any kid who insists on being given the chance to take Spanish against all the adults in his life deserves to be presidente. Other than that, I didn’t treat him differently from anyone else. He learned like gangbusters in my class. He participated, did all the written work, and had a big smile on his face every class.
Nick broke his left wrist riding his bike after the first week of school. Being left-handed, he had to do all his written work with his right hand. He did every bit. I have students not on IEPs with full use of both hands that don’t put half the effort he did into writing stories.
Nick did awesome in Spanish 1 and went on to succeed just as well in Spanish 2. Stories like this one that make me so glad I am a teacher. It is my privilege to give access to and encouragement in learning to kids like Nick, because I believe that a kid who has full access to learning has access to the world.