(This post is a continuation of last fortnight’s post. While I will summarise the bulk of what was mentioned, I would recommend everyone who hasn’t read it already to do so, to have a better understanding of Ash’s background.)
In our last post, I featured Ash, an existing student of mine who used to get into trouble with authority figures due to his learning difficulties (ADHD, ODD and dyslexia). Ash is a lad with plenty of potential, and under the Swords & Stationery programme, he saw some improvement to his results and self-motivation… that is, until we got to April 2017.
Due to some scheduling issues on my end, I had to temporarily stop the Swords & Stationery programme for Ash. Over the next few months, I learned that Ash’s results had slipped, and he was at risk of being retained for the year. He had also dropped out of his CCA (which I knew he had been deeply passionate about). It was altogether rather sad when I learned about these proceedings.
Picking up the slack
In August, Ash rejoined my programme. We spoke at length, and that’s when I understood the details of the events that had transpired over the last few months. Ash was still passionate about his CCA, but he’d dropped out due to a prejudice that his CCA mates had harboured against him; his grades in Term 1 were fairly good, but later slipped as a result of his PC gaming habits. It was still a pity to know that his school performance had suffered, but it was more understandable after the details were brought to light.
The next step was to ask Ash about his plans for the future. He expressed disappointment at his grades, but I was heartened when he maintained that he still wanted to do well; moving to a higher academic stream was still in the books for him. He had tasted academic success in Term 1, and wanted more of it.
Setting the stage for Ash’s development
I therefore got him to agree to a few things: one, I was going to help him ace his English, but he needed to follow my techniques to a tee; two, time was not on our side, and while I could still make lessons fun, there were many things that I had to cram before the end of the term.
He agreed to these. Now we had to work together, to try and create a miracle for his year-end exams.
I immediately crafted a specific programme plan for him. Because rapport had already been built in Term 1, I knew all of his strengths (processing speed) and weaknesses (exam skills). To help him with his writing, I adapted and modified a tabletop game-design module that I had used with ex-students before; for his dyslexia, I sped through the basics of phonics to bring him up to speed with advanced morphology.
The phonics and morphology crash course certainly helped to build his understanding of sentence syntaxes in English. He also began to express himself just a little bit more eloquently, showing that he was able to catch on with the more technical stuff. However, it was his performance during the game-design module that truly surprised me.
To explain why, Ash was supposed to create a role-playing game (RPG) from scratch, along with an actual scenario for players. Well, he struggled a bit with the designing of game mechanics, but demonstrated a strong ability to organise his thoughts in a clear, concise way according to the needs of the audience, which is a crucial skill in functional writing. When it was time for him to present his scenario, he took on the role of Game Master and guided me through it.
He was flawless in his presentation.
That’s right! Ash, the lad whom many people had thought to be reckless and impulsive, delivered a flawless presentation. Despite all the curve balls I threw to test him, he was able to think on his feet, two steps ahead. I couldn’t have been more proud of him or his hidden talent for storytelling that day.
Oh and in 6 weeks (that’s one lesson per week), we saw a jump in his English grades, from a ‘U’ to a ‘C’ grade!
Moving on to Term 4 (to be continued)
Ash’s learning pace was gaining momentum. I was immensely happy to discover his secret penchant for storytelling, and although not really surprising, I was very pleased with the rate at which he was able to internalise my techniques. Remember that it was a very packed 6 weeks, and we often overshot lessons by 30 minutes or more (at no extra charge, of course!). His jump in grades was also remarkable, and gave him something tangible to celebrate.
A part of me was still worried, however. There were still many more things I could teach him, and I wanted him to do well enough to top the class. Again, time was not on our side—after the September holidays, I would have approximately 4 lessons before his year-end papers. The question was, could Ash accomplish what he had originally thought was impossible?
That, dear reader, will be for the next post.*