The truth is he tries. He wants to read. He wants to spell the words right. He still wants to impress but he’s also starting to knows he is behind his peers. He’s becoming shyer, quieter, more to himself. He loves science and hates math. Math doesn’t make sense. He enjoys experiments and discovering an answer. Reading is tough, but he continues to try. Not all the words make sense, but he likes the stories. Mrs. Lee knows he struggles. Rather than push she pulls. Instead of correcting, she questions and encourages. She points out his effort when he struggles and tells him how proud she is of his perseverance. She helps him untangle his thoughts and make sense of it all. She knows he’s distracted and frustrated at times. He doesn’t feel well. He can’t explain it but his tummy hurts. On good days he’s on, his chest puffs out and his hand shoots up, eager to answer, eager to please. The challenge is two-thirds of the year has gone by and there simply is not enough time. Becoming more aware that he’s behind he needs all the support he can get. RTI helps, but being pulled out is becoming socially tough. Fearful and ashamed he goes, but he is growing weary. Home tries to help, but learning takes time and after a day in school, he is exhausted. In and out of the hospital, hoping to be normal, he wants to do well so he tries and Mrs. Lee teaches. Name the issue, fill in the blank, whatever it may be, connecting with kids comes first. Processes and policies, assignments and assessments aren’t what schools are about. They have their place to improve the system, identify needs, work toward systemic change, but the day to day is students is the primary focus. In an era of accountability, mandates matter, but great teachers know in order to teach you must be in touch. Leadership Challenge: The quick story above is commonplace, so how can an administrator support this teacher and student? One, teachers need face time. Time to talk. Time to vent. Share their ideas, a safe place to discuss with an administrator their challenges, ideas, and thoughts. Two, recognize numbers don’t give the full story. Data is important, but meaningful conversations around the child supported by how he is performing in the classroom is crucial for a child’s success.