Taking a chance on a fifth grader

From Kelly Schultz, Fifth Grade Teacher, Isaac Dickson Elementary, Asheville, NC

My school houses the district classroom for students with behavior and emotional problems.  These students are known around campus for being angry, violent, disrespectful and low achieving. Two years ago, our school hired a new lead teacher for this classroom and she has done a fabulous job supporting these students and changing how our community looks at them.

I began the school year welcoming one of her students into my 5th grade class for both reading and math. Before the winter break, she sent an email to my team, asking for support with another 5th grade boy. She wanted one of our classrooms to begin his transition to regular classes in middle school. I had one of her students; she hoped this boy could join one of the other classrooms.

After her third request, I agreed to have him in my class (generosity).  It took courage to begin to work with another high needs student.  I had no idea how it would affect classroom culture, which was the primary concern we all had.

But I understood the importance of providing a stable, mainstream learning environment for this boy.  My attempt to provide this started with imagining how he could experience early successes in classroom activities.

He has been a part of my classroom for four months now. He joins us for daily reading instruction and participates in group activities and field trips. My students have welcomed him with open hearts and minds.

Bringing generosity, courage, understanding and imagination to this situation made my classroom a better place for all students, and the school a better place for a fifth grade boy.