Melissa’s oldest child survived leukemia as a toddler; her son, WonderBoy, is partially deaf and is dealing other problems with the help of a lot of early intervention. There are five children in all. Melissa is the author of a series of books about the Scottish great-grandmother and mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House on the Prairie series.
On the Carnival, Portable Princess writes about expectations, telling the story of Parker, a poor, black, below-grade-level, fifth-grader with an “emotionally disabled” label and a dysfunctional family. A second-year teacher, the Princess didn’t know he was hopeless. She taught him English and social studies.
Did I mention he was a mess? His parents were in and out of jail, his older brothers were often suspended or expelled from other schools in the district. He had this horribly annoying habit of humming when he became stressed.
She liked him.
His school counselor emailed me one day in the middle of the third grading period. Apparently Parker had NO idea why he was failing, could I explain it to her so she could explain it to him. If only she could have heard me scream. I told him weekly why he was failing (to his credit, he asked) and what steps needed to be taken to reverse the trend. I offered to help him in every possible way I could think of, but he never seemed to hear me. I sat down and answered the email. I went through his grades for the grading period. I outlined every thing I could think of, I made the connection (again) between his preparation for class and his level of comfort and confidence in class. I explained (again) what would be needed to reverse the trend and bring his grades back up. I reiterated (again) how confident I was that he was completely and totally capable of being an honor roll student.
This time, for some mysterious reason, Parker got it. At the end of the grading period, he’d made honor roll. He went on to middle school, where Princess had friends who checked in on him and relayed her messages of encouragement.
By the time he left the middle school, he’d been removed from his home and was thriving in a foster home. He’d been dismissed from special ed and was placed in advanced and honors level classes at the high school.
When he comes by her class to visit, Parker tells her students to listen to her advice.
It’s all at the Carnival.