“What are you doing, Viktor?” I asked, curiously.

“Trying to remember how to spell ‘denouement,” he said, butchering the word. He hunched over his desk, pushing his smeared glasses up with two fingers.

“Come up here for a minute,” I said quietly, trying not to disturb the rest of my home room kids, who were, for once, all working hard or reading during the half hour Flex period before lunch.  Victor stood up, his chair scraping, and trundled over.

“Yes, Ms. Babs?” he said politely.

I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote “de”.  “That’s how it starts, right?”

“Right.” He looked puzzled.

I left a blank spot and wrote, “ment.” “And that’s how it ends.”

He nodded. “Yup.”

“So what we have left is the hard part: ‘noue’.  He nodded.  “Let’s make up a silly little sentence with those letters… How about ‘Never order ugly eggs.’  See how we made a sentence using the four letters to start each word?”

Viktor nodded enthusiastically.

“So now, during the test when you want to spell ‘denouement,’ you can write the easy beginning, then either tell yourself the silly sentence or write it in the margin and use the four first letters, and then add the easy ending!”

“That’s so cool,” Viktor whispered, a huge grin lighting up his face. I handed him the paper and he went back to his desk to practice, still grinning.   The next day he aced the test and earned the 5 points extra credit for knowing and being able to spell the other word for the resolution of a novel.

One student out of 119. One tiny skill taught. But those five minutes were some of the most precious that day.  To see a student who struggles, but always tries so hard and has such a great attitude succeed and feel confident is enough to remind me- THIS is why I teach.


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