Friday, November 17, 2006


A while a go I found out that one of my best sophomores, Shonique, couldn't read. I don't mean she couldn't read well, I mean she couldn't read. She knows some words by sight, but she doesn't know phonics or how to sound out words. She has an A in my class, though. She does all her work and she gets her friends to help and her mother to help with homework.

Anyway I was shocked when I found this out and surprised it had taken me so long. I frantically tried to find some one to tutor her after school for free. I called the board of education, the public school literacy department, I even tried calling the toll-free No Child Left Behind number (They were the least helpful). Finally I found a community volunteer and a retired woman from the neighborhood has been coming in every day after school to tutor this girl.

Today I gave Shonique a computer. It was an old computer that we had in the house, an old iMac G3. I took it to school today and drove Shonique home so I could hook it up for her. I am pretty sure I am not supposed to do this. I haven't heard for sure that you can't drive kids homes and give them computers, but it seems like something that wouldn't be acceptable. I told her to keep it under wraps.

It was a crazy experience going to Shonique's house. It was in the projects and it was the worst neighborhood I had ever been in. Shonique called her sister to come down and unlock the door so that we could quickly bring the computer into the building without getting robbed. A boy ran up to us and asked if he could carry it upstairs for us, Shonique looked at me and shook her head. Later I found out that kid was her brother. "He goes to a special school" she said "for behavior problems"

The damp and dark hallway lead to their 3rd floor apartment and I could see immediately how poor they were. The apartment itself wasn't so bad, it was the lack of furniture and upkeep. There was a baby walking around in stained pj's and her pregnant sister told me not to worry about him cause "he's mean". Shonique lead me into her room where snapshots lined the walls with scotch tape. Rows of pictures of cousins and friends. She had found an old desk especially for the computer and was excited to show it to me. I noticed there were no sheets on the bed I sat on.

While I set up the computer Shonique and her sister watched me. They wanted to know if the computer had the internet. I tried to explain that computers don't come with the internet and they would need to buy it separately. They seemed really disappointed and I felt as though I had let them down. When the computer was set up I showed them how it would work. I took them through some of the applications. I felt stupid explaining what iPhoto and iMovie were. I told them that to use those they would need a digital camera. They looked at me with eyes that said "oh, this is for rich people"

I came away from her building feeling bad. Like I had given them a taste of something that they can't have. A computer without the internet, without a digital camera, without a floppy disk drive.

I should have just given them a typewriter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're writing about this.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Mary Lee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Mary Lee said...

This entry made me sad, mainly because I feel as though you left the experience sad and all you tried to do was a really great thing.

9:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home