All of the fifth graders had been researching the city St Augustine, Fl, as the first city in the United States. Throughout the week, they crafted scripts for a green screen video on Friday. The research process was student led.
One student, "T," was unable to start with us Tuesday as he had run out of medications for his severe (really severe) ADHD. On these days, T can't function. His body writhes. He has a wicked stutter which becomes even more aggravated. His brain spins at lightning speed, as do his body movements. He told me right away on Tuesday that he had no meds, though it's pretty easy to deduce as soon as he walks in. Tuesday was out for concentrated research for him. Wednesday came, and he was out sick. Thursday came and the new meds had worked, all too well. No research was really done that day either, due to the equal and opposite lethargy. So, for our green screen/research project, T was not involved with a group that would be filming a script. He had done some limited research during class independently, but it was spotty at best.
You might imagine the life this one has had. There has been no privilege. When he came to our school 13 months ago, he was fearful. He had not ever been properly diagnosed or treated. Everyday was spent trying to harness the power. Last year's teacher was a blessing, uncovering needs, providing a steady, constant, peaceful presence for him to help him acclimate to a healthy, loving, learning environment. His has not been an easy road, but there have been great gains.
As Friday came around, his state was more even keel. T saw classmates recording and wanted to record something as well. He and I went in the hall and he showed his science knowledge about refraction through an experiment. He was charming. His vocabulary was precise, and he was proud of his work. I was proud of his work. But it was just the beginning.
As we went back in the classroom, group filming began. T immediately saw the miracle of green screening and was in delight and awe. I heard him say to his facilitator that he wanted to film a news video. I told him he could record on anything academic, and he chose to repeat the experiment done in the hallway, but this time, with the class as the audience. He did "takes" and "retakes" easily upon my requests due to technical difficulties. He used humor in his presentation and worked without a script. The whole room watched gleefully and celebrated his work. Classmates came up to him afterward and told him, genuinely, what a good job he did. Obviously he was proud. I asked him to pick out a background for his video, showing him pictures of traditional science labs. He chose one that looked more like a Frankenstein lab, which made the entire thing way more awesome than the boring lab I envisioned. It was a moment of joy, and we were all in T's happy place.
T's work was complete. Or so I thought.
In the words of my dad, "That's what you get for thinking."
A group of students who had been the last to complete their script were bogged down (read: unmotivated) and debating over who would (have to) read on camera. They asked me to decide, as none of them wanted to read or be filmed. I suggested that, possibly, T could do it. He and all four students agreed that would be a great idea. They showed him the script and walked through it with him. He had some difficulty with words, and his peers were helpful, assisting him with pronunciation. After a few minutes, he told his group to "wait just a second." T came to me and said, "I...need.....p.p.p...post it notes.........please." I provided (#youCanHaveAllThePostItsYouWant) and off he went back to the group.
Then it happened.
T began writing on the post it notes, attaching them to the computer screen, and assigning parts to the group, telling them when they would come in. He gave over lines that he could have had for himself. He encouraged others saying, with a smile, "You have two lines. You have two lines. You have two lines. Now, get going!" He directed all of these three reluctant readers/performers, guiding them through the script they had created. They were happy to follow.
The four of them gathered together and read their script in front of the green screen, as if they'd never said they'd really rather not. T led the charge, his delight and love of the process glowingly evident throughout the filming. In the Hollywood version, the coach takes pity on the kid and lets him make the last play of the game. Everybody claps, cheers, and lifts the kid on their shoulders. But, in this version, the coach puts the kid in, and realizes that the kid should have been the quarterback for the whole season. He was in his wheelhouse, spinning away, performing and directing his peers into doing something that the teacher could not possibly have inspired. We were, and continue to be, in the presence of this child's genuine greatness.