Third Grader Saves RTP
By Olin Levitt, PhD, School psychologist, Oquirrh Elementary School, Jordan School District, Salt Lake City, Utah.
I am not only the school psychologist, I am also the RTC teacher, an adaptation in my role that helped make Ed Ford's Responsible Thinking Process a reality at our school. All of us here at Oquirrh have done a significant amount of "stretching" as we've grappled with the novelty and vision of RTP, an undertaking we initiated in August, 2005. Growing pains have been deeply felt, waxing and waning with each passing month. Many times the difficulties have become intense enough to threaten the very commitment we made to the process back in August.
A couple of months ago I thought we had reached our snapping point. I sat alone in RTC that afternoon with an overwhelming feeling of dread. Negative thoughts entered my mind as I began asking myself questions - one's I had no answers to. "Is this a sinking ship? Are teachers abandoning RTP - bailing out and swimming to shore?" Am I going to be the last one on board before it goes under? What am I going to do?"
I buried my face in my hands lost in these thoughts. Some time passed before I heard the sound of footsteps entering the room. I looked up and saw Zach, a "frequent flier", standing before me. I didn't have the strength to work with him on his problem, so I asked this little dark-haired boy to sit at a desk for a while and rest, read, or draw a picture. Zach asked if he could have a piece of paper, which I handed him before putting my hands back over my face. The dreaded thought that RTP is a sinking ship echoed in my mind. I closed my eyes for a while and lost track of time.
A tap on my shoulder brought me back. It was Zach, standing next to me with a little smile on his face. He said "I made something for you". From behind his back came my present. It was a paper sailboat. On it was written "Thank you for helping me. Love, Zach". I held the boat in my hands for a while, reflecting on what had just happened. Zach just stood there, smiling, not saying a word. I then turned and hugged him before saying to this wonderful little boy, "Zach, are you ready to work on your problem?"
Two days later I sat in a staff meeting that had been scheduled several weeks earlier by my principal. He wanted me to address some of the problems we were having with RTP. I decided to simply tell Zach's story. At the end, I held up the paper boat Zach had given me for all to see. There was a long pause before Lori, a fourth grade teacher, said "We can't jump ship - there are kids on it". Diane, a kindergarten teacher, then stood up and said "Just a couple of weeks ago I began reading 'Fundamentals' and the questions are working beautifully with the children." Carla, another teacher, also spoke up, saying "You know, sometimes you don't think something's working when it really is".
John, our principal, then took his turn. In a strong and clear voice he said "We are going to have RTP next year. And I am allocating funds for another RTC teacher so that Olin can support the process in other ways. We are going to complete this voyage - it's just going to take some time." There's one more thing I would add to what John said: "Thank you, Zach, for saving RTP".