Published in a newsletter of City Year Chicago, an AmeriCorps education corps.
His name is Roberto Perez, and he wants to become a doctor. Until then, he sits at the front of the room, neglecting the lesson as he studies a poster listing Chicago’s top ten high schools. “Mr. Surya, what is an ‘AP class’?” he whispers to me during Ms. Adams's gazillionth explanation of two-step equations. “How far away is North Side College Prep? When do I apply? Can I get into that school?”
His name is Roberto Perez, and his score from the North Western Evaluation Association’s Measure of Academic Progress pins him squarely alongside the average american third-grader. Equations and abstraction are not quite yet his strength. Class, taught awkwardly between seventh-grade level it’s supposed to be taught at and the far lower level his peers work at, at times tries his patience. And he, for that matter, at times tries mine.
His name is Roberto Peterson, and he attends City Year’s after-school homework help every day, except Wednesdays, when he and his younger sister attend catechism at a nearby church. Some afternoons, he and I work fine. We slough through problems with reasonable frustration over distractions and concepts.
Other days, we don’t. My explanations—on equivalence, school, life, or whatever I think he could use—draw long, while my tolerance—for his random remarks, frequent distraction, bordering-inappropriate questions—draws short. On those days, the moment his thoughts stray from his work, I suppress his them, and shortly thereafter his interest. He seems just another underperformer falling farther and farther behind.
It’s the days when we both get sidetracked onto a discussion of high school and college and service years that he, without knowing it, manages to suppress my doubt long enough to make a little progress. For both of us.
[my name] at yahoo dot com