“I can’t do it!!” Ana declared.
There was no doubt she meant it. She would shut down and sit immovable refusing to try again, to look at anyone, or to speak to anyone. It generally happened during reading or math and it easily took an hour before she was willing to talk or work again.
Ana was 13 when she first came to live with us. She has not had a chance at going to school before that and had to start with kindergarten at age 13. It has been an effort for her teaching her brain to make sense of the ant-like figures and nonsensical ornaments books contain. Learning a completely new skill at that age is hard. Seeing everybody around you reading long books, while you yourself are struggling with just recognizing each letter is discouraging. The feeling of hopelessness has without a doubt been real. She has been going to the Learning Center for over a year without ever really believing she would get the hang of it.
This summer we had a good friend and teacher visiting from the States who worked with her for a few weeks. Ana put an effort into following the daily lessons, but it took all of her energy. By the end of two weeks, her efforts paid off. Ana read a real book; an easy read of course, but nevertheless an actual book. What an achievement; her eyes shone with joy over her accomplishment and we were all inwardly jumping with delight for her.
This year she is in first grade. Once in awhile we still hear an “I can’t do it”, but the defiance has gone out of the sentence. After reminding her of her feats over the past months, she seems to have a little light in her telling her, that she might be able to make it. Whenever the “I can’t do it!” is said now, it simply means: “I need a 10 second break, and then I will try again.”