This is the Snow Princess Barbie in Brunette created in 1994. I had no knowledge of this doll until I was called her last night by a parent who was nearly in tears at my conference table. It seemed like a normal conference. I was sharing samples of her daughter's work so far this year. We were discussing how I may need to move her out of my reading group and into a higher level and she just stared at me. I explained to her how well her daughter was doing and how she has really taken off. Nothing, no words. Slightly confused I pulled out more samples of the work, showing the perfectly formed letters creating well written sentences. I showed the trajectory line of her September reading score to the October reading score. I explained while she is not yet on grade level she is making excellent progress and is at the top of my reading group. Still silent but at this point I notice the tears that are beginning to well up in her eyes.
She then shocks me with her words. "Please, please don't move her"." What?" I say," why not?" She then said, "you believe in her, you work with her, you have found the key to our daughter". Now I am the one with the tears welling up, but I am the professional so I can not let them show. I then state, "Oh no, it's not me, it's just her time, some kids are late bloomers and it just takes them longer to get into the groove". She then goes on and says to me "You don't understand, every year it has been a struggle just to get her to school, she cries, she makes herself sick, she tells us how stupid she is and her teachers call her slow." At this stage I am rendered speechless as she tells me that the past experiences have included labels and gross generalizations by professionals who should have known better if they had only taken the time to look. It broke my heart.
Now I get that we all have classrooms full of quirky kids who have different learning styles and crazy behaviors. We are not teaching the same kids who we sat with as kids ourselves. As a child the worst behaved kid in my class would occasionally not follow directions, or get out of his seat when he wasn't supposed to. This year I have a student who throws chairs, clears table tops, and screams when he doesn't get his way. I have another who at 8 has decided he is in charge of his own life and goes against all parent rules (which aren't enforced anyway) on a daily basis. This year I'm lucky to have all my students in their seats at the same time. I have one who can perform wonderfully if he is allowed to squat in his chair and lean on the table. He can work for 15-20 minutes silently focused in that position. Previously I had spent 15-20 minutes a day asking him to return to his seat every time he got up. I have one who needs a mental break about every 30 minutes so she either gets her book from, or takes her book to her locker. She doesn't bug anyone on the trip to or from said locker. But the minute it takes her to get there and back allows for a mental reframe that keeps her going the rest of the work time. It is who she is and is what it takes to keep her from falling apart because school is hard for her.
It takes time to learn about what works and what doesn't for my students. That is my job, it is what I am supposed to do and I take pride in doing it well. Sure most days I don't think I have succeeded and I ponder the day and evaluate what to change.
And then there are the days when I am called "Snow Princess Barbie" during a conference, about a girl who is doing well. The exact statement went like this "You know you are Snow Princess Barbie at our house." I say, "oh wow, thanks, I've never been called that before. Wow, thank you." The mom smiles and repeats "Our daughter came home and told me the first week of school, Mom, I have Snow Princess Barbie for my teacher this year". I thank her again, say my goodbyes and prep for the next family. I don't think about it until this morning when I wake up and wonder "who is snow princess barbie?" And so I do a google search and discover that Snow Princess Barbie was created in 1994 and is a rare, unique and collectible barbie of which only 265 dolls were ever made.
I am rendered speechless. It is I who now have the tears in my eyes as I truly realize the extent of the compliment. It is the much needed answer to my daily question "Do I make a difference?"