As a literacy coach, one great advantage I have is interacting with students from grade to grade throughout their elementary years. I get to watch their growth and development firsthand. As readers, as writers, as fellow human beings . . .
One great disadvantage is not being a daily part of their lives or having as much impact as a classroom teacher. I try to maximize the joy of student learning in the moments I do have with them, for I am on the periphery of their academic life.
Or so I believed.
This week, after several weeks out with my husband’s hospitalization and convalescence, I went back to school. Feeling grateful to be on familiar ground (somewhat like finally making it to a known island through strange, ominous seas), whom should I see but a little friend I used to call “Superman” because he was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the superhero’s “S” logo on the day I first saw him. He was in first grade then, having come from another country. He was tiny, he knew no English, and his frustration was immense. His face was one miniature thundercloud until I said “Hey, you’re Superman,” and that’s when he smiled.
So, on my first day back, here he is, getting off the bus, smiling, making a beeline. He’d made a card for me. This child, now in third grade, has mastered English to the chatterbox level and still doesn’t like to write (although he loves telling elaborate stories about things like playing soccer in the street with other kids in his neighborhood).
I thank him. I tell him how tall he’s gotten in these few weeks I’ve been away. He grins, hugs me, and heads off to class, uncharacteristically shy.
I read my card and I understand.
Sometimes it’s hard to share your heart out loud. So we write when we have something to say, when the need to express this something outweighs the chore of getting it on the page.
Just a few words, but how I rejoice in them, that he has them.
—I missed you, too, Superman.