Joe, Where Are You?


I walked into the kindergarten class of Ms. Sawyer in Pontiac, MI where I was going to tutor kindergartners who were not “kindergarten ready”. In other words, the kids did not know colors, shapes, identify numbers and letters and sit still for about 10 minutes. About 95% of the kids qualified for both free lunches and breakfasts. Sometimes this was the only food they got for the day. I was told not to give the kids any gifts so as not to create a classroom problem.

Ms. Sawyer introduced me to the five kids I would work with once a week for about a half hour per child. Joe was a large chubby little boy who would be one of my kids. The first week, we sat down and just got to know each other in a separate space right outside the classroom. Joe was charisma personified and wanted to take me on a tour of the school rather than sit still. He could not sit still for any amount of time. I asked Joe to tell me about his life and he squirmed. When I took him back to the classroom, the kids were sitting on the floor waiting for a story. Several kids shouted for Joe to come and sit next to them.

I worked with Joe all year and found ways to help him sit still learn a little. I found when I was teaching him about animals and singing “Old McDonald had a Farm” with him that singing had an amazing calming effect. So, we sang songs about shapes and colors. I knew this was not going to work in the classroom but Joe was catching up. And his home life was getting worse.

One week I came and Joe had been suspended. He was under a table for story time and lifted a table with his feet which turned and landed on another child. It was termed violent.

The next week I changed things a little. I got permission to let Joe visit the therapy dog at the end of the half hour if everything went well. Joe and I got a lot done. Each week he hugged and snuggled with the large Golden Retriever therapy dog. His dad got out of prison and things improved a little. By the end of the year, Joe was up to speed.

During the year, Joe found his way into my heart and now after fifteen years I wonder where he is and how he is doing.

5 thoughts on “Joe, Where Are You?

    • We really couldn’t stay in touch with those way the program was set up. When we left for the year, we got a tote bag that the kids decorated with their names and handprints. I still have it.

      I saw how much the teachers in that school have to deal with besides teaching. The first cold day of school that year, the school took a count of the kids without jackets. With some donations, the principal went to the local resale shops and bought jackets for the kids. In one family, two kids alternated days at school because there
      was only one pair of shoes.

      The needs of the kids before they could even start to learn were huge.

  1. It’s ladies like you that we so desperately need with our school systems failing our little ones
    these days. Thank you for being there.

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