The Dawn of a New Season


From the files of the even more thrillingly surprising, and on the heels of previous news about a certain student in my class (Motor Mouth) turning his words toward detailed, insightful comments in lieu of general babble, comes today’s teaching tidbit about a young man named Lax.

Lax is a fellow who, throughout the year, has occassionally sparkled in his dialogue with me, offering wise comments about our books and throwing himself wholeheartedly into our Olympic words program. Much more frequently, though, and to significant consternation, Lax has allowed himself, despite his obvious ability, to fall to the bottom of the pack in so many ways. I’ve held at least 4 or 5 conferences with his mother to address his habitual lack of homework, only to have her make excuses for his benefit. Lax even went FOUR STRAIGHT UNITS without publishing a finished product in writing.

His choice for non-fiction writing this month was spiders. On the first day after I gave him a blank book, he brought in a beautiful cover with a black widow spider drawn on the back. He also took the time to visit the public library and find books on spiders to inform his research. Cynically, I told myself he was, again, going through the motions of the in class work, expecting that, once more, he would sputter just short of the finish line and come up empty.

Shame on me, though. Lax’s book finally found my desk this morning. Yes, it was two days after I expected the class to turn their work in to me, but there it was. I wasn’t going to quibble over the tardiness. It was just a milestone that he handed it in.

On my prep, I finished marking the students’ books, and, for whatever reason, Lax’s was the last one left. I prepared myself for the horror, expecting I’d find his A-Z book to be only an A-L book, or lacking illustrations, or finding that it was devoid of any depth.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The book read beautifully, illustrated with helpful diagrams and infused with originality. Lax received a 4 (being the highest possible grade) for his obvious effort and the skill with which he crafted the book. I penned a note to his family to inform them of the thrilling developments. I left a note for the guidance counselor to tell her about the possible breakthrough.

When I returned to the room, I went right to Lax with his book, told him I was amazed, and showed him what I wrote on the rubric. Earlier in the day he told me I was tickled pink over something (one of our idioms), and now, I told him I was tickled magenta. So was he. Then I gave him the note for his family. He read it, and the kids around him couldn’t resist doing the same. They shared in his joy, and this child never has smiled more this year.

I told him I wanted him to read to the class later in the day. When he did, they sat rapt, mesmerized by the unexpected facts he had, but more so, I think, by the fact that Lax had produced something so spectacular after all these months of more than mediocrity.

He received a round of applause at the end of the day. I told him I felt like today was the best day of his fifth grade life, and he agreed.

The glacial movement that defined the first 5 1/2 months of his year might be thawed, coinciding with our local weather’s recently gorgeous ways restoring and rebirthing our plants and our psyches. Perhaps there’s a rebirth of sorts happening in Lax, as well.

Is it any wonder why I love spring?

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