There should be a “The World Is Out To Get Me” day at work. Similar to a sick day, but more serious. If such a day existed, I certainly would have called in. Aside from the usual “I don’t want to get up this morning” syndrome, I had managed to rip a pair of hose, burn my tongue on the coffee I unwisely stopped to purchase on the way to work, and step off my heel walking up the steps, twisting my ankle and settling my sour opinion of the day. Add to that my pending rent payment coming out of an anemic paycheck and the ever-present family tensions and I was on the verge of telling my boss I felt a fever coming on. Too bad my ever-dwindling paycheck forced me to stay put. Hourly wage makes fools of us all.
“Well, Zach, how’s it going?” I asked brightly, setting my kit down on the table. He was my fourth hour of one-on-one tutoring for the day, and only the ten-minute break each hour was keeping me sane by this point.
Zach shrugged, “Okay, I guess.”
I sighed. Working one-on-one with dyslexic children can be emotionally and mentally exhausting – particularly when the learning disability has spawned emotional problems. My first three hours had been with kids whose main goal was to show their parents just how much trouble they could be here. Zach generally didn’t act up unless his morning at school had gone bad.
“Just okay?” I probed, mostly because I cared… partly because I needed to know where I stood on the I’m-going-to-pitch-a-tantrum meter.
“Some kid pushed me down while we were running laps in PE,” Zach muttered, pushing up his left sleeve to reveal a rather nasty bruise on his forearm. “I landed on my arm.”
I clucked sympathetically, setting out the materials for the first activity. “That looks like it hurt.”
Zach nodded, poking at it. “Ow! It hurts when I do that.”
“Don’t poke it and it won’t hurt as much,” I advised, nudging the paper toward him. “We’re going to start with reading some words.”
The program centers on providing physical memory cues for the mental connection between a printed letter and the sound that letter makes. I marked the first word for him and leaned back so he wouldn’t feel crowded, wincing as my ankle came in contact with the chair leg.
“Duh-aw-uuuuuhh-buh-t,” Zach sounded out, looking up for approval.
I had to check the paper to make sure we were still looking at the same word. Doubt. Yep. “Excellent job figuring out those letters. Now, let’s check a couple things. Do you see any letters that could be working together?”
Zach furrowed his brow. “The b and the t ?”
“Good thinking, but not what we need.”
Zach returned his attention to the word, tapping his right pointer finger against his bruise. “I don’t –ow! - see anything.”
“Stop poking that. Now, what about our vowels? Any buddies?” My tongue was dry and achy, and I was trying hard not to think about how long I would be talking about this one word. It basically summed up my attitude toward life at the moment anyway – doubt I would survive this week.
“ O and u – it’s a slider!” Zach said, mimicking the sliding motion of the mouth for the sound “ou.”
“Well done, Zach!” I exclaimed, truly celebrating the independent assertion. It meant the program was starting to take root. “Just one more thing, that b is cheating. It’s not making any noise.”
Zach shook his head sagely. “Cheater.” He looked down at the word again. “Duh-ow-tuh…doubt!”
His smile almost brightened my day. I leaned forward, intent on congratulating and reinforcing the independent thinking, when my sore ankle collided with the chair leg again, much harder. I yelped and settled back in my chair, fighting a word I rarely used – definitely not in the company of children.
“Are you okay?” Zach was staring at me, concern practically oozing out of those huge baby-blues.
“Yeah,” I managed.
I gingerly reached down to feel the ankle. No swelling, but definitely sensitive. “Ouch! It feels kinda’ like your arm, I think.”
Zach nodded, looking down at his bruise as I returned my attention to my ankle. “Hey, guess what!”
“What?” I muttered, trying to sound politely interested.
“I just realized something. Ow… it’s a slider sound!” Zach exclaimed, poking his bruise for emphasis.
The light in his eyes made me forget my ankle. “Exactly right.”
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