Thursday, March 21, 2019

SLICE #21- Watering seed dreams

D is a fifth grader, new to our school, when I meet her. I am a literacy coach, recruited to teach fifth grade for a month or so, while we wait for our new hire's paperwork to clear. The second day, I am standing in my appointed spot in the front hall, clipboard in hand, waiting to direct any family who might be lost, or anyone who might need assistance.

D wraps her arms around my waist. Not the "I'm glad to see you" kind of hug, but rather the "I'm drowning, and you're my life preserver" kind of hug. She was smart and sweet and shy and totally overwhelmed by a new school, not to mention a recently blended family, with two adults and six children living in a two bedroom apartment. Even so, the work she produced, day after day after day was absolutely brilliant. She was meticulous to a fault, and often asked to come in for extra work time at lunch recess.

D and I have been book buddies for the last two years. A year or so ago, I took her to the Tattered Cover to see one of her favorite authors. It turned out that she had never been to a book store before and we did it up right- giant cookies and hot chocolate with whipped cream, autographed books, a crazy book-related scavenger hunt afterward. She said it was one of the best days of her life

Two weeks ago, I got an email that she would be doing a presentation this morning. She had just completed a mentorship program with a medical student, and as a part of the program she was required to present her learning.

When I got to the auditorium, D was sitting on the floor in front of a huge presentation board. A young woman sat beside her. D's voice trembled a little as they rehearsed. Her dad, a construction worker, probably on his lunch break, came through the door, and after a quick respite for a fire drill (gotta love that timing!), D was ready to begin her presentation. Approximately twenty kids, from third grade to eighth, sat on the floor in front of her. D took a deep breathe, then another, and another. And then she began.

She talked for twenty minutes about using an electron microscope, about melanoma, about staining cells, about a case study where she watched medical students diagnose appendicitis. At first, she was clearly nervous, but the longer she talked, the more confident she became. I was floored, as I listened to her, by her medical knowledge and her use of highly technical vocabulary. Afterwards, she answered questions and posed for pictures.

At the end of the presentation, the woman in charge of arranging mentorships asked D what she wanted to do with what she had learned. She said she wants to learn more about cells, and maybe be a cancer researcher some day.

And all day I have been thinking about this little seed dream. The seed is planted in such hard soil- the family is beyond poor, no one has ever attended college, there's not money for food or clothes, let alone extra experiences, or visits to museums, or anything like that.

And what an incredible privilege it is to be invited to water those seed dreams…


Anonymous said...

The bit about different kinds of hugs hit that particular nail on the head. As for the portrait of D starting to sprout: inspiring!

Readingteachsu said...

A seed in hard soil... so true. Those kiddos that stay with it in the struggle, they're going to be ok. having someone like you to watch over her helps.

Elisabeth Ellington said...

Such a beautiful piece, Carol. Of course my favorite moment is that trip to The Tattered Cover. I can just imagine her joy at the cookie, the hot chocolate, the author, the autograph, the books!