On this Thursday however, he didn’t respond to my requests that he take notes on the video he was watching in preparation for answering questions at the end of the video. Nor, despite my requests, did he attempt to answer any of those questions.
I was discouraged by his behavior. Danny slouched in his seat with his head resting on his hand and showed little interest in doing any work. I thought about my overall role as a mentor and whether I was doing any good or wasting my time. I thought Danny knows I come here just for him. How can that be bad?
At the close of the school day Danny walked out of the room without saying anything. As I was leaving the classroom, I commented to the teacher about Danny’s behavior. She told me that he had had a bad day. Perhaps sensing my discouragement, she asked if she would see me next week. I told her I would be back. As I walked out into the hallway, Danny was walking toward me. He said goodbye, and much like the teacher, he asked if I would be back next week. I assured him I would at which time he gave me a hug and said "See you next week".
Epilogue: The relationship between Danny and his mentor continued when Danny transferred schools for 5th grade, and continued into middle school. It ended in the middle of the 6th grade when Danny's family moved out of Howard County.
I am a mentor for a fourth grader named Danny.
I meet with him in his regular classroom on Thursdays from about 2:30 to the end of the school day. Usually, Danny is responsive to my encouragement to participate in the ongoing class activities such as reading (to me).
When concerned about the never-ending series of “tall tales” I was hearing from the 2nd-grader whom I was mentoring, I tried different approaches, eventually hitting on a system that worked well for us.
I wanted to avoid confronting him with questions about whether things were 'really true' or not. It was obvious to me that this little boy was desperately missing having more involvement with his father, as many of his stories were about elaborate adventures with his Dad, such as going on a helicopter ride with him to the White House.
So one day I talked to my student about an idea I'd had of using some “story boxes” as we talked to each other. I drew pictures of three boxes, and we labeled the first box “just plain news (or, the same as anybody who was there would tell it)” and the second box, “news with some wishes mixed in.” And the third box was, “stories all from wishes and imagination.” When my student started on one of his stories, I could say, “hold on a sec — tell me which box we're in here so I can understand what you're telling me a little better...,” and to my amazement, he would say something like, “well, sort of in the middle box, and maybe a little bit in the 3rd box, too...”
By the end of the year, he would actually do this sometimes without being prompted: “Mrs. M, guess what! I went to a water park with my dad and I beat him going down the biggest chutewell, kind of 2nd box, cause I did go with my granddad to a pool and I did go down the waterslide...but I wish my dad was there...”
It was a relief to see that he could acknowledge his own departure from the “plain-news” truth and at the same time still be able to share those fantasies that were so important to him regarding his father.