LOVE THAT BUDDY: Collective I-Poems

| March 16, 2010



A collective I-poem of TC Reading

and Math Buddy Stories, 2007-2008

  Ryan SchetelickZankel Fellow







Part of the power in the Reading and Math Buddy Program or in any school change movement, especially those that work from bottom-up, is in sharing stories, sharing realities. Only in the sharing of these efforts – through video, visual, audio, and textual representation – can the power of the program take root.


In this light, as part of the Reading and Math Buddy Program, I have begun to collect and turn Buddy stories into collective “I-Narratives,” stories told from the first person where the “I” in fact represents multiple personas.  In this case, the “I” represents multiple Reading and Math Buddies in multiple sites over multiple months. 


In the “I-Poems” represented here, the narratives begin to take the reader through the school year from September through April.  In their writing and reading, themes of self-discovery, of confidence, context, and content are revealed.



TC Reading and Math Buddy Program

Ryan Schetelick

Zankel Fellow




September 1:



I was ready

To make a difference


I waited


For a half hour



                  Theresa, 14


She shared her poetry with me.

                                                      Jessica Suarez

September 2:

Things to Do


Things to do:


Build a rapport with the students,

make them feel comfortable working with me,

develop an understanding of their individual reading abilities,

identify the areas where improvement is needed.


This is more than a September’s worth of work for sure, but


Two of the students I work with brighten up and frenetically plead with me to work with them first when they first see me each morning


I suppose they’re starting to become accustomed to and, more importantly, enjoy my presence and the work I do with them.


I hope this continues and that my work with them continues to bring about happiness and academic progress.


Christopher Kan


September 3:

Quote of the Day


Quote of the day

from a first grade girl

head full of ribbon curls,

big smile

missing front teeth

still carrying the paper towel and wiping her hands.

Speaking ecstatically

words full of breath, running into the classroom to inform her classmates:

“They put soap and paper towels in the bathroom! You should see it! It’s pink!”


                                                                        Elizabeth Jordan


October 1:


He is doing leagues better than last year.

He had no idea what the concept of “opposite” was

Now he knows when he is acting the opposite of good.


Everyday since, as we walk to and from the class, we take turns asking “What is the opposite of _____?”


                  Good                             Bad                      Big

                                        Small           Tall             Dark               Night


With his oversize “Deadly Animals A-Z Dictionary,” we turn to  reptiles, insects, mammals, birds and fish

How can you tell the animals apart?


                  Frogs          Alligator               Eagle          Squirrel


He sorts and writes each animal in an appropriately labeled column.

We then use our seach for favorite animals as a chance to explore ‘alphabetical order’ and the index.

He is doing better than last year.

So am I.


Elizabeth Jacob


October 2:



We are reading a book called “We Are Six,”

Full of short sentences describing some of the things that six-year-olds do in school.


One page shows a picture:

kids dancing and laughing


The text reads:             “We wiggle. We giggle.”



He remembers that the first word “wiggle,” and always reads it without a problem.


He also remembers that the last 5 letters in “giggle” were the same as “wiggle”, so the word would rhyme.


We read the book every day (his choice),


And every day he knows “wiggle” and knows the next word will rhyme.


And every day his first guess is “shiggle.” although he knows it’s wrong


And so for now, we “shiggle” before we “giggle”


But not for long.


                                                                                  Katie Alexander


October 3:



He liked the story as well!

He didn’t want to read at first today, but I did and

I had decided to persistently stick to the task of READING

And show him how much I liked it more than anything else,


He was soon absorbed into the storyline.


At the most dramatic part,

the little sister sings to her sick brother

with her "angelic voice."


I looked up for a second.

His eyes were closed.

He was completely immersed.


There is a beauty to it when kids forgets themselves because something is so fun.


                                                                                 Eun Yong Kim



October 5:

2 x 6


So, I think we need some basic tools-



We need to practice our math facts


but they need to be engaged in the process,

so I buy the supplies and we begin to make multiplication and division flashcards together.


I want them to learn during this process and take pride in the final product, and to do some math in the process, so


we figure out how many inches each card should be if we have an 8X12 piece of construction paper and need to 8 cards.



Shannon Hamlett


November 1:

Naim and Samuka




Can you draw an equilateral triangle?




                           Equal sides, right?


Right. You can use a straight edge?





This is hard. All the sides aren’t measuring even.

Yes, it is hard…without a compass.

A compass?

Well, do you know how to use a compass?


10:22 (Using compass)



Measure it with a ruler and make sure its equilateral. Use centimeters.


Are they equal?






So what else needs to be equal if the sides are equal?

Use the protractor.

The angles.

You got it.





Next step, making fractals.



Brett ApRoberts


November 2:



Shark in the Park! Shark in the Park! Shark in the Park!

The chant was rhythmic and emotional.  Ebony had asked me to bring the book again.  We had read it together earlier in the month but I had recently switched things up and began reading The Hungry Caterpillar. 

You like that book, huh?

Yes! Yes!


We read Shark in the Park again together.  Ebony read every word with me.  Well, I think that she more remembered than read the book, but I think automaticity is important.  Ebony can finish Shark in the Park.  Reading it makes her feel good.  Her faces lights up.  Her smile glows.  She’s excited as she reads. 

These are the moments I cherish

Ebony cherishes


We cherish.


Victoria Konarski


November 3:



Stephanie smiles, ear to ear.  (So do I.)

Ohhhh, she says,

We had an extra ten from the ones column,

so I knew that the answer would be in the sixties.

I just knew it.

I smile again.

She is using strategies we’ve talked about before.

We’ve met together, in the hallway outside her classroom on the 3rd floor, for two months now. 


                                                               Deborah Rosenfeld

November 4:




Today,  we worked on "ock"







He read them perfectly off the flash cards I ‘d made 


And now,

His turn.


Almost instantly, he begins writing on his own






This was progress.

A desire to learn to read and an interest in books.


Katie Picard

December 1:



My dear Jeanette:

the worst penmanship I have ever seen


She cries and argues and cries and argues


But I don’t have anything to write

This is how I write: sloppy.


(What I did not know was that both of her parents were deaf, and she has to sign at home to communicate)


And now

I am so proud of Jeanette.

She is writing with s p a c e s in between words,

and is noticing what letters she Captitalizes when they should not be.

Her stories have content, and she seems like she wants to grow.

And I want to see her and help her grow.  


Nikelia Chisolm

December 2:



Upon finishing our math lesson today,

Larry said,


"I love school!"


Yes, Larry.


The same Larry who has complained the entire year about having to do ANY school work.


The same Larry who feels as though he has no friends at school.


The same Larry who has 47 demerits in Mrs. B’s class, more than double any other student.




Trent Henry

January 1:



Meeting with Luis went very well

he seems to have improved in not only his reading

but also his behavior,


His teacher even said that she now only calls home to say how he is doing, which is a major improvement,


Hopefully that continues and the novelty of having me back doesn’t wear off to the point that he begins to be completely unfocused during our times together.


Tami Williams

January 2:





Yes. You know. 12 inches = 1 foot.






She honestly had never heard of the measurement “foot.”

She had never been swimming…never dove into the deep end (12 feet).

She had never been to the doctor’s…never stood on her scale…never measured by the nurse…or perhaps never aware.


I hesitated. (Did my disbelief show on my face?)


I acted.


Ok…stand up. Stand up.

She smiled.

I used the ruler and measured up her leg—torso—shoulder—head.

4 feet 6 inches.

She smiled again.

Deborah Rosenfeld

February 1:

A Notebook


Can I see your notebook?


I had my notebook with me from Teachers College.


Of course.


She grabbed it.  Sat down. Opened it. Flipped through it.


When am I going to be able to take notes like you?  She asked.


Soon, I said. Soon.


Let’s read first.


We did.


She amazed me with her focus today.

If my notebook played nay part in it…she can keep it.


                                                                        Lauren Fisher

February 2:

Once Shy



once shy, reserved, guessing

Worked with me today (hard) drawing hands on blank clock faces





28 minutes before 7.


28 minutes before 7.


28 minutes before 7.


Stephanie didn’t know where to start.

Did I…

I asked her what was keeping her from getting this one.


I don’t know what it means.


I walked her through the process – starting at 7:00 and going back 28 minutes.


We wrote the target time. 6:32. That was it.


I saw the Stephanie understand.


She drew the hands.


I clapped mine.


                                                                        Deborah Rosenfeld


February 3:

Valentine’s Day 


Valentine’s Day


I bring in cupcakes and construction paper


For snacks and cards.


We make cards and wipe frosting from our mouths


I learn the names of their brothers and sisters and cousins


They learn how to spell Valentine’s Day.


                                                                        Lauren Fisher

February 4:


We are working on fractions now


and it’s time consuming


(and expensive!)


But I see some progess, I do:



                           Are we done yet?


                           1/3 of the way.


                           But it’s 12:30.  That’s ½ way.


I smile.


She’s right.

Susan Licwinko

March 1:

Animal Books



Note to self:


Get more animal books.


                                                               Melissa Alba

March 2:

Fara and I


Fara and I were working on making a bar graph.


We’d been prepping for the big test for the last few weeks.


Fara asked if we could make a bar graph of favorite books he read


                                             With me.


I must have blushed.


Four-months-ago-Fara was too shy to even read one line out loud with me.


Fara-today was a changed student.


As was I.


                                                                        Linden Prickett

March 3:




Making a difference.


This is why we do what we do, yes?


Through the ups and downs,

The smiles and frowns,

The getting caught in the rain,

The cold shoulders and the hugs


This is why I show up every day

And in showing up every day

I know I have made a difference


This is why we do what we do.



                                                                                 Ryan Schetelick

March 4:





Mory who guessed at everything


                  Who never took time


                           Who never re-read the question


                                    Whose basics were simply not there…..yet.


Now….five months later…


                  With a small hand from me….I hope….I know…


He reads and re-reads


         He problem-solves (a little)


                  He thinks out loud (a lot)


And he is confident and eager.




Mory who now articulates.

Deborah Rosenfeld

March 4:

With our maps


With our maps and our rules and our new knowledge of scales, we were ready.


How far is it from Dallas, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee?


We were not ready.


Where’s Tennessee? Where’s Dallas? What’s Nashville?


We took a step back to take 2 steps forward.


We found New York, and started from there.


Scale was not the problem. Context was. 


Background knowledge.


The balance is hard to keep – but part of getting ready.

                                                                        Brett ApRoberts


March 5:



Spring has sprung.


I have heard teachers speak of it before….the bloom.


Yes, the cherry blossoms are beginning to bud even here in NYC.


But, today Ethan read a whole level E book.


A whole level E book about having horses as pets.


And he read the whole thing without my help.


Sping has sprung.


Ethan has bloomed.

  Tami Williams



April 1:



I have developed close relationships with three of my reading buddies, which has definitely impacted the productivity in our sessions.


They are more willing to read and finish books.


I am reading Charlotte’s Web with one of my boys,


and I don’t think this would have been possible earlier in the year.


Shaquasia has been a joy since the beginning


But I know there is a quiet storm brewing inside of her,


and I think that our sessions have allowed her to step outside and collect herself before she gets into trouble.


Oftentimes, I think that these students have impacted me more than I have impacted them.


Collin Cox

April 2:

A Letter


I recall the day when he asked me to help him

write a letter

to his aunt,


asking her to send money

to her son, his cousin,

who lives with him now because


My aunt is not around. 


At that time, I didn’t want him to write exactly what he said,

so we wrote


Can you please send money to go on a field trip?


But I know that it was much more than that.


I can’t erase the memory of him giving me a big hug


“Thank you! Thank you!”


with the letter in his hand.


 Jin-A Sung