“May I help you?” Miss Carolyn asked.
“I’m here to sign my boyfriend up for the GED class.”
“Does he know it?” Miss Carolyn asked with a chuckle in her voice.
“Yes, he sent me up here. He took the practice GED test and tested at 5th grade.”
“Why didn’t he finish school?”
“Because he moved here.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well he used to live somewhere else and he was going down the wrong path so I made him move here. I wanted to get him away from his friends who were leading him in the wrong direction.”
Fear gripped Miss Carolyn’s heart. She was committed to helping these young people be successful. For a better understanding, she had taken the GED practice test and knew there was no way someone with a 5th grade reading level could pass the test. If one adds in a little attitude, it was even harder. After visiting with Brittany further, she learned that Charles had been given accommodations in school to help him pass his classes.
“As long as you read it to him, he can tell you the answer.” Brittany explained. “He just can’t read it himself.”
“I wonder if accommodations are available for the GED.” Miss Carolyn asked. “I’m going to find out.
Through some research, she learned that there were accommodations for the General Education Diploma test upon request. The test could be read to him. Oh great, Carolyn thought. Another one that will get tired of me reading to him while practicing and storm out the door. In her career as a Special Education teacher, she had run across this often. The student would start out excited and willing to ‘do anything’ and then frustration would set in and he left feeling defeated and worthless. She certainly wasn’t looking forward to working with this boy.
When she told the receptionist that Charles was coming in and she would read the test to him, Miss Jackie was shocked. “Charles can’t read? That surprises me. He has never shown any indication that he can’t read. You should see him in the parenting classes. He participates more than the mothers do. He really takes care of that baby. When Brittany came home from the hospital, she didn’t have to do anything. Charles took care of her and the baby. You are going to love him. I can’t wait for you to meet him.”
Miss Carolyn smiled sweetly at Miss Jackie. Apparently Miss Jackie likes this kid. We’ll see.
Two hours later, Charles walked into Miss Carolyn’s classroom. The first thing she noticed was the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. Then she looked at the baby he held in his arms and saw the same eyes. Charles stuck his hand out and introduced himself. He was tall, well built, confident, and polite. At least he has that going for him. Miss Carolyn thought.
“I wanted to come and talk to you.” Charles said. “But I don’t want to take that practice test today. I want to practice at home with just Brittany watching me.”
“That’s fine.” Miss Carolyn reassured him. “You don’t have to worry about working with me. I want you to be comfortable and I won’t ask you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.”
Brittany took the baby to another room, leaving Charles and Miss Carolyn alone.
During the next two hours Miss Carolyn visited with Charles. He was an eighteen-year-old boy who had chosen to grow up fast when his girlfriend became pregnant. There had been no male role model in his life and he didn’t want his daughter growing up the same way. He wanted a GED so he could get a better job. He assured Miss Carolyn several times that he would not quite. He was determined to make a life for his girlfriend and the child he adored.
“When we were at the doctor’s office the other day, I read two chapters of the Bible to Brittany. I am determined to read that book, no matter how long it takes. Do you have any other books I can read? I didn’t want to read when I was in school. Now I’m really trying to get into reading. I know that some of my problem in school was because I just didn’t want to do it. But now I have Brittany and Emily to care for. I’ve got to have a good job to support them, so I need to learn to read. Do you have any books that would help me?”
Miss Carolyn’s heart went out to this boy/man who was trying so hard to be the caretaker he needed to be for the girl and baby he loved. “I don’t have any books that I think would be interesting to you. Let’s look on the internet and find some things for you to read.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate your help.”
“You are welcome. Now let me send some links to your email so you can read at home.”
Brittany and Emily came back in the room. Immediately Charles noticed that Emily had a band-aid on her thumb. “What happened to her?”
“She got a paper cut playing with a book. She didn’t even cry. We just noticed the blood and saw the cut.” Brittany explained.
Charles took his baby’s hand in his own and brought it gently to his mouth. After several kisses on the boo-boo he let go of her hand. It was obvious to Miss Carolyn that everything Miss Jackie had said about this boy was true. He truly loved that baby.
On the drive home Miss Carolyn couldn’t get Charles out of her mind. He was not at all what she had expected. He was polite and personable. He was more responsible for his baby than most men twice his age. He was truly a good kid who had gotten mixed up in the wrong crowd. Lucky for him, Brittany had loved him enough to intervene. When he spoke it was obvious that he was intelligent. Miss Carolyn noticed dyslexia tenancies as they talked. She asked him about it and he admitted that he had been in a dyslexia program. With that discovery, Miss Carolyn had more faith in his ability to master the GED test. Experience had taught her that people with dyslexia are very intelligent. Their brains just process written language in a different way. If someone reads the material to them, they can learn it.
Over the weekend, Miss Carolyn told her husband about Charles. “Well can you get him some books that he could read?” Dwight asked.
“We would need to go to a large bookstore. Most bookstores don’t carry those books.”
“There are special books?”
“Yes, they are called Hi-Lo books. It stands for High Interest/Low Readability.”
“Well let’s go get some.”
They made a special trip to a large bookstore where Miss Carolyn spent almost an hour selecting books for Charles. It was difficult to find books that he could read, but weren’t written for children. Finally, books in tow, they left the bookstore.
The following week, Miss Carolyn sent Charles a message by way of email that she needed to see him. He made arrangements with his boss to leave work early to see Miss Carolyn. When he walked in the classroom, he had a quizzical look on his face. “Did you want to see me? Is something wrong?”
“No, not at all. I have something for you.” She brought out the books. One by one she showed him the books. They discussed each one. “This one is called Treasure Island. It is a classic. You are going to love it.” Then she showed him two other books. Finally, she looked at him and said, “I saw this one on the way out of the store and I couldn’t leave without it.” She reached in the bag and pulled out a book called My First Book. “This one is for Emily, but I want you to read it to her. Research shows that children who are read to by their parents do better in school.”
The tears in his eyes showed his feelings. “Thank you for getting these books for me. Most of all, thank you for getting that book for Emily. My parents didn’t read to me and I had a hard time in school. I don’t want Emily to have a hard time. I want her to be smart like Brittany. I’ll do anything I can to help her.”
Over the next two months Charles and Miss Carolyn worked hard to help him achieve success on the GED. After he received his diploma, he began applying for better jobs. He was a good worker and it didn’t take long for him to land a job. After a while, he and Brittany married and moved to a larger apartment.
It has been five years since Miss Carolyn taught Charles that with a little change in thinking, he could accomplish anything. Or did Charles teach Miss Carolyn?