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Mixed blessings

Last year’s student H and I had a very close relationship.  She came to the country knowing almost no English but was determined to control every aspect of her day through sheer force of will.  She demanded a great deal of my energy and focus, but she repaid it with enormous progress and affection.  I worried a lot about sending her on to second grade – not because she might struggle academically, but because as much as I love her, she’s an easy child to get fed up with.  I think she ended up with the most patient of the second grade teachers, but she’s independent enough now that she doesn’t need to have the same incredibly focused relationship with her teacher anymore.  In addition, the two students she most enjoyed moved over the summer, and I think that remarkable force of will of hers has made it hard to make new friends.  As a result, she’s feeling a little lonely this year.  She stops by my room each day after school to talk, and is usually in a decent mood, but last Monday she was very down.  “I have bad day.  I very sad, but I no can talk about it.  My dad waiting, I tell you tomorrow.”  I called out after her to write me a note that night to tell me about it.  This is what I got the next day:

On one hand, this letter breaks my heart.  I hate that she ever feels sad, and I don’t want her to be wishing for the past.  On the other hand, I know she’s a strong, resilient child and that this will be a temporary low.  And I read her letter, written in controlled handwriting, regular letter format, and (mostly) conventional spelling, and I can’t help but celebrate.  Sixteen months ago she didn’t know a single English letter.  Now look at what she’s able to do.  She is, truly, a remarkable child, and while I’m sad that she’s sad right now, I feel confident that she’s going to take the world by storm.

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