A Short Life For Anna
We knew Anna had learning difficulties when she was in kindergarten. She tried, but she just couldn't catch on. She was also very immature for her age, something that never really changed. When she was first tested for special education, she did not qualify. There has to a certain number of points discrepancy (in our district its 20 points of more) between IQ score and ability score. Unfortunately for Anna, she had a lower IQ and her ability was almost at the same place. In our district we also have to wait two years between testing.
So Anna was tested in kindergarten, and then again in second grade and once again in fourth grade. She was lucky she had wonderful teachers who worked very hard with her to keep her at least understanding part of what she needed to do, And she had wonderful parents. They were separated but still did their best for Anna. her father, especially loved her. She had her daddy wrapped around her little finger.
Her father was a biker and looked like the stereotypical biker. He was big and bald and wore leather jackets and jeans and head bands. He had tattoos all up and down his arms and even one across the back of his neck. And he was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. And he loved his little girl.
I got to know Anna when she was in fourth grade. I began observing her when it looked like she might actually qualify. She was tall - nearly as tall as me. She had long golden brown hair and by the time I got to know her, wore glasses that just made her look even more adorable. Because of her size, people expected her to act more like a young adult than the little girl she really was. Like I said before, she was very immature for her age, as well. She carried a doll wrapped in a blanket with her most of the time and always wanted to play "house" with her friends.
She had lots of friends. She drew people to her. Everyone wanted to help her. She always wanted to do everything by herself.
By the end of her fourth grade year, she finally qualified for services. It was about the last six weeks before school was out for the summer. I always had a class party at a local park to celebrate the last semester, and she was disappointed that she had just missed it. The park we went to had a large pond and lots of playground equipment. We had played lots of games and the kids were still talking about it. I had taken lots of pictures and the students picked a picture to write about. Anna was disappointed that she didn't have a picture to write about. I took a picture of her and the next day I gave it to her and asked her to write about herself.
She had learned to write a type of poem in her regular ed class and wanted to know if she could write one for her picture. I told her yes. Her poem was this:
Who Loves Animals
Who Likes Dolls
Who Likes to Ride with her Dad
Who Likes her friends
Who likes Reading
And who loves Life
I posted her picture and her poem in the hall and it got lots of good reviews from her friends and other teachers.
Anna worked hard for me. She worked even harder when she was allowed to have her doll in her lap while she worked. Of course, I let her doll sit with her. Because of this, other kids asked if they could bring dolls or teddy bears to school to work with. I told them they could as long as they worked as hard as Anna did.Anna definitely had a good positive influence on the rest of class.
When school ended for the summer that year, I looked forward to having Anna in my class for her fifth grade year. I planned on all the things she could work on, and tried to think of ways to incorporate poetry into anything she did, since she seemed to love it so much.
I went on my summer thinking of that and thinking of relaxing and only working half days for summer school. I had planned on taking my own children on a small trip.
And then I got a phone call. It was a call I will never forget. It was from our principal. I couldn't figure out why she was calling me in the middle of summer. It was very unusual for her to call us in the middle of summer.
"Have you heard the news?" she asked.
"Anna died last night."
I was in shock. I asked how it had happened. She told me that Anna had been at a friends house and the friends parents had been gone. Anna and her friend had been given strict instructions to stay at home and not leave. Anna's friend talked her into leaving. She lived close to a movie theater and she talked Anna into going to the movies with her. There was a busy street between the friends house and the movie theater. Instead of going to the light and crossing, they decided to cross in the middle of the street. Anna's friend had made it across, but Anna had been hit by a car. They had taken her to the hospital, but she had died before she arrived.
I had never had a student die before. It was hard to take. It was somewhat easier since it happened in the summer so I did not have to immediately have to talk to the other students about what had happened. I could think about the right way to tell them. I shouldn't have worried.
Most of the students had already heard the news. A group of them came up to me on the first day of school. They asked if we could keep Anna's desk and chair in the class. I said that we could, and they made a sign that said "Anna's Desk" and placed a doll in the chair. We kept her desk in the same place all year long. When students were having a difficult time, they wanted to sit at Anna's Desk.
At the end of the year, I once again took my students to the park. At the end of the day, I gathered the kids for our traditional group picture. When we had the pictures developed, we noticed something strange about the picture. Right in the middle of the group, was a tall, blurry shape.When the kids saw that, they all said, almost in unison, "Anna was there with us!"
I thought to myself - yes she was....she has been with all of us all year long...
Love you Anna....
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