Fish In A Tree
I've seen plenty of kids who start out in school wanting to
learn how to read and falling further and further behind. What works
for their peers falls short for them. In our standardized test
obsessed school systems their non standardized learning methods can be
easy for cash strapped schools to not provide. Sometimes after a few
years they've decided they'd rather be pegged as bad than dumb and
make great efforts to hide their areas of weakness. Ally, protagonist
of Lynda Mullaly Hunt's Fish In A Tree would be in great company if
she stepped out of the pages of a book into the real world.
Ally, a military dependent with a father on a tour of duty, has
been in seven schools in as many years. Wherever she goes it's the
same story. She can't stop getting in trouble or really connect with
Early on in the book Ally has been sent to the principal's
office, an all too familiar destination. She can't understand why.
The class is having a party for her very pregnant teacher. Choosing a
card by the picture on the outside, lovely yellow flowers, she's given
the woman a sympathy card. People can't seem to comprehend that she
was trying her best.
"No matter how many times I have prayed and worked and hoped,
reading for me is still like trying to make sense of a can of alphabet
soup that's been dumped on a plate. I just don't know how other
people do it."
When Ally gets to the restaurant where her mother waits tables
she finds out Mom's had a call from the school. The two peers who
torment her the most drop by to get ice cream and invite Ally to sit
with them. Her mom, desperately eager to see her happy, thinks they
want to reach out and be friends. Ally knows better. But even she is
horrified to learn that they have figured out her secret.
What Ally doesn't know is that her life is going to take a turn
for the better. Her new teacher is an out-of-the-box thinker. He can
see strengths and intelligence beneath the surface she presents to the
world and perceive her limitations as fixable.
On a personal note, when Veazie was still part of RSU probably our
best accomplishment was the creation of an alternate high school--a
safe harbor for kids in danger of drowning in a traditional
pressurized academic setting. They had a head teacher who worked
flexibly and tirelessly to meet their safety and growth needs. I knew
some of those kids personally. What they accomplished, those
youngsters who could have so easily been written off, with his
guidance and mentorship is nothing short of amazing.
A great big shout out goes out to that truly remarkable teacher, Andy,
who was a treasured friend. He left us much too young. Gosh, do I
still miss him.
Sent from my iPod