This is an all-too-common example of what I meet when a new child is introduced to me.
I met Kieran for the first time recently. In his early teens and still in 6th class, his parents had agreed reluctantly to hold him back given the promise that extra tuition would produce the desired outcome: a young man who could read.
Kieran sat at my table, for the world like a rabbit caught in the headlights, only there because mammy had a pitchfork at his back! He sat perched on the edge of the chair and avoided all eye contact. I told him I needed to do a quick reading test to establish a starting point, so he could see for himself how much he had improved when next tested. He didn’t really care about starting points or tests, but I did. I tried to ease the burden by promising only to count correct answers. I always hope this will help, but I am not sure it does.
Kieran complied with my instructions and tried to read the words as large tears plopped down onto the page in front of him. This always gets to me. I struggle with my own plops at these times and often a few escape.
I apologise to Kieran, and all the other Kierans I see all too often. I apologise on behalf of the system that has failed them. I promise Kieran that from that day on things will improve for him. At these moments, they may feel they have someone on their side who at least understands their plight, but they never are convinced that things will get better for them.