Blog Series


by Antavia Hamilton-Ochs on May 4, 2016

  • General Education
  • Literacy
  • Parental Involvement
  • Reading Intervention
  • Struggling Students

I am more than a teacher. I am an activator. I'm tasked with lighting thousands upon thousands of little ‘aha’ moments in little minds each year. Not each spark takes hold, but others explode! Sometimes, I get to see the magic take hold in the most powerful of ways. Part 2 of 2.

Carmen came to me a reading-shy freshman. She was ever so polite, with a smile that melts my heart daily.

She'd forget her glasses. She'd quietly chat with her friend. She'd wait for someone to notice she was lost.

In the past, I would give her a heads up before calling on her and be met with panicked eyes. While another student read aloud, I'd go over to her and softly let her know I'd help her. When she started to shut down, I'd smile and let her know that ladies let people know what they need and move forward. I'd remind her that she was still moving ahead.

She’s a Lady!

Carmen is in my class to gain skills like all of my students, though for her it's especially hard.

Reading is difficult for her. She's sensitive about it, but still she has to learn.

Over several weeks, she and the rest of my class relaxed into a comfortable learning environment for all. The added benefit of being in a no-scold zone for asking about anything falling under the umbrella of a successful academic experience, has helped her find her sparkle. 

In recent weeks, this lady has grown by leaps and bounds. She's taken our talks about being strong men and women to heart. I watch Carmen’s confidence grow by leaps and bounds each week. Now that she feels safe, she's excited about learning.

As a class, we've worked hard to make it comfortable for students to share what they need for academic success. We all offer assistance, not criticism, when someone is struggling. We’ve learned to let people know what we need.

Carmen embraced this tactic and is rapidly becoming her own advocate. 

The more she advocates for herself and asks for what she requires to learn, the more she flourishes. She discovered her magic!

In the past when it was her turn to read out loud, one could barely hear her voice. She would stop when she came to a big word and wait for someone to fill it in.

Now she takes a whack at pronouncing new words. She sits up front. She's has her glasses on daily and asks questions. She the first one to say she can’t see the overhead and ask for me to adjust it. She is also becoming a master of figuring out what she needs to progress and asking for it. I’ve been very impressed. I’ve made quite a fuss over her progress. The intense focused stare she displays while I am teaching lets me know that she understands that she is part of Mission: Literacy. She believes me when I tell her an education is important. She is determined to get hers. 

“What a lady you are!” I say often. She blushes and beams in response. 

Presenting Lady Carmen

This week, Carmen proved just how much of a strong, determined young lady she has become. 

I asked for volunteers to read a passage from our text. I explained that the volunteer would only have to read the first paragraph, and I would have another reader for the second. The first student confidently raised his hand to read. I thanked him for volunteering. He read in a strong bold voice.

He gladly accepted pronunciation corrections and plowed ahead. When he came to the end of his paragraph, he dutifully stopped. I had been fiddling with my teacher’s edition and was caught off guard by the abrupt silence that followed. Without looking up, I distractedly asked for another reader. I didn’t even look up from the text until I heard a female voice strongly begin to read the first line of the second paragraph. 

It was Carmen.

Taken aback, I raised my head and watched her read. My eyes welled with tears. I scanned the classroom for my collaborator, Ms. Morris. We locked eyes. I winked and she nodded. She knew how important that moment was. I brought my hand to my heart and focused on Carmen as she finished her reading. 

When she looked up at me, she saw my enormous smile. She started to smile as well. Then she blushed. A well used veil of shyness washed over her face. I wouldn’t let her retreat that easily. This was a moment to remember. I would honor this achievement. 

“I’m so proud of you!”, I burst. I gave her a little shoulder hug.

In front of the entire class, I fussed over and praised her. She was the topic of another impromptu life lesson right there on the spot. As a class, we talked about the risk she took. Carmen started to relax into the discussion. The moment had turned into a teachable one for the entire class. 

carmen_grade9-300pxCarmen understands that she has the magic to create a phenomenal life for herself. She has to take control of her own education and handle her business. She is ready to engage in her own education and get the skills she needs to move ahead like the young lady she is.

Most importantly, Carmen understands her value to our classroom and the world. She found her voice. She is no longer going to wait for someone to call on her so she can get her practice in. In front of a room full of her peers, Carmen declared her education to be more important than her fear of embarrassment. She is determined to get what she needs to be successful. In that moment, she became a lady. A lady always honors her commitments to others, and herself. 

I proudly introduce to the world, Lady Carmen – member in excellent standing. 


Hear from the principal, teachers, and students at Antavia's high school about how a positive learning environment and LANGUAGE! Live blended literacy intervention are changing students' lives.

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