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Friday, June 12, 2009

Mary Anne

(This will be the first post in the series I am writing about each of my students from this past year.)

I don't think I will ever stop thinking about Mary Anne.

Mary Anne came into my class about a month into the year. I was sitting at the rug, doing some sort of whole-group literacy activity with the class when the classroom door opened. In walked the principal guiding a scared-looking little girl into the classroom.

"Ms. Grownup," she said. "You have a new student. This is Mary Anne." Then she whispered, "Come talk to me later and I'll explain." She shoved an enrollment form into my hand, and left.

Later that day I went to talk with the principal. "What did you want to tell me about Mary Anne?" I asked her.

She explained that Mary Anne had been in a second grade classroom. Mary Anne should have been a second grader. However, she was very low academically for second grade. She had arrived at the school a few days before, and had apparently spend the entire time sitting in the corner of her classroom alone, lost and sad looking. Her previous schooling had been very erratic - she had missed a lot of first grade. She also had a fairly late birthday and size-wise would fit very well into a first grade class. So, the principal has decided to transfer her to my classroom.

Academically, she ended up being one of my higher students. This suited her well. She began to develop and flourish in my classroom. She fit in with my 2nd highest reading group (reading just about at grade level). In math it was clear that she had been through first grade math before, and fit in very nicely.

Much more importantly than the academics though, she began to smile more. She looked happier. She made friends and experienced success. When the principal came in, she told me that Mary Anne looked so much happier and more comfortable than she had in the second grade classroom.

And I loved having Mary Anne in my class. She was a reliable student, occasionally mischievous, but overall very respectful to all adults and peers. She came in tardy very often. Sometimes just moments late, other times minutes, or longer. But, she did usually come to school. Then, she didn't come for a few days. And she didn't come for a few days more. And a few days more. I called her phone number and got no response. I asked the class if anyone had seen her around the neighborhood and no one had. Eventually, 10 days passed without any sign of Mary Anne, and she was dropped from my class list. I was sad, but assumed she had moved suddenly, as the students sometimes do, and just hadn't unenrolled.

About five weeks later I got a call over the intercom. "Ms. Jacobson," the secretary called, "When school lets out, come to the office. You are getting a returning student." I hadn't fully heard her so wasn't sure what she meant. After the students left, I went down to the office.

"You are getting Mary Anne back," she told me. "She has been out of town, taking care of a sick relative with her mom all this time."
"Oh?" I questioned. "Has she been going to school?"
"No. She has not been enrolled anywhere else." I was informed.

When she came back the next day, I was so excited to see Mary Anne again, but terribly sad that she hadn't been at school this whole time, and had been so unexpectedly pulled out of the classroom where she was finally getting comfortable.

Surprisingly, and contrary to any logic, her reading level sky-rocketed during her time away. Mary Anne said that her mom had bought her a workbook which she used. Her reading had actually level developed at the same rate as the other kids who had been in her reading group before. She slipped back into the classroom, almost as if she hadn't been gone for a month and a half. For a while, Mary Anne was very quite, she looked tired and sad and her clothes were messier and she was tardy more often. After a few weeks, she started to become more cheerful again. She began to bond with a couple other girls in the class, she exchanged phone numbers and had playdates outside of school. One of these girls, in particular, really felt close to Mary Anne. This other girl seems to have a fairly steady, supportive family, which at the time I thought was a nice thing for Mary Anne to have the opportunity to experience.

Mary Anne continued to do well in class. She was happy, she was successful academically and socially, she was trying to push the limits of what she was allowed to do, which I thought was a good thing because it signified a type of confidence that Mary Anne had been lacking before. One day in particular, my principal wandered into the room for an informal observation, and got to see Mary Anne absolutely shine during a math lesson. Mary Anne fully understood the math concept we were working on, and was able to articulately demonstrate and explain it to the whole class. Later when I talked with the principal, she glowed with happiness for seeing Mary Anne so successful. She finally felt confident with her decision to pull Mary Anne out of that second grade class so many months ago, and place her back into first grade. The principal frequently marveled over the fact that Mary Anne looked like a completely different child than she had when she was sitting sullen in the corner of the second grade classroom.

Shortly after this, Mary Anne was absent for a day. I didn't worry, figuring she was just sick - germs had been going around. Then she was gone the next day. And the next. I asked the girls who were close with her if they had talked with her, and they hadn't. I waited a few more days. I called Mary Anne, but no one answered. I asked the girls if they had talked with her. They said they had called several times, but no one answered. I slowly watched as her absences added up to ten in a row - that magic number at which students are dropped from the class. Every morning I waited for her to trudge into the class with a tardy pass. She never did. She was dropped, again.

I kept hoping that maybe she would come back, but then felt guilty for that. What I really wanted was to know that she was okay, somewhere. That she was enrolled in school somewhere. No school ever called for her cumulative folder. I didn't clear out her desk. I kept waiting and hoping.

She never came back to Awesome School.

She is resilient. She is smart. Wherever she is, I hope she is continuing to learn and grow and develop.


Blogger Jay said...

what great picece.. is sad when we dont know what happen to are student ... I just have wish the bets for them and say a little prayer that they are safe :)

8:13 PM  

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