Success isn't how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.
An Old Proverb

Emily was in the third grade. I started seeing her in the summer. I would send a book home with her so that she could read a chapter or two before seeing me again later in the week. I had even given her a notebook to keep the book and other papers in.

She came back after the first weekend without the notebook. I asked her where it was. She didn't know. I told her that she needed to bring the notebook to every class with whatever I had put in it. I told her mom the same thing. The mom said she would make sure they would bring it the next time; that they had been in a hurry and just had overlooked it.

This notebook NEVER showed up all summer! Everything I gave to her seemed to disappear. If I gave her a worksheet to finish, it was never returned. I gave her another notebook after the 4th class. This was lost too.

One day she left something personal at my house and I knew she would want it. She didn’t live far from me. So on the way into town, I dropped it at her house. When I arrived, a furniture van was delivering furniture and the door was open. I hollered hello, but no one answered.

I decided that I would just leave the item on the kitchen table. I immediately understood how things could get lost in this house. The kitchen table was cluttered with things! The house had kid things strewn about everywhere!

Mom was a recovering alcoholic and appeared to be overwhelmed with keeping house. Mom wanted to help Emily, but she didn't know where to start.

Because she was a struggling reader, and a very frustrated one, Emily didn’t care to look for her notebooks or other books needed for class. She was used to making excuses and it was easier for her just to not to look for her homework.


When the school year started, I was allowed to pull Emily out of class three times a week for 45 minutes each in order to continue the intervention. Her desk was a mess with single papers jammed into it. Even though she had a pocket folder for each subject, she didn’t use them.

This meant that someone would have to teach her what to keep and what to throw away! The other two teachers in the classroom worked with me as well on teaching Emily about orderliness.

By the end of the year, Emily was removing her previous daily assignments and leaving them at home instead of cramming them in her backpack and leaving them there. IF homework was interesting to her, she would do it. IF she thought it was not important, she would ignore it.

Even though she had gotten on board with some organizational skills, it appeared her mom had not. It turned out that mom and dad thought that their daughter was old enough to determine her own destiny. They believed that if she wanted a good grade, she would study. The problem was, she didn’t know how, she didn’t have a place, and she wasn’t motivated.

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