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I finished reading Lisa Graff’s book Absolutely Almost in one sitting – I did not answer the phone, walk the dog, or help myself to a cool drink – even though it was a warm day out there on the porch, and I could have used a cool drink. I was, of course, captivated by Albie’s story, but what really kept me reading and glued to my spot was the fact that I was also thinking of all the Albies who had passed through my classroom, all the Albies who needed me to pay attention, all the Albies who needed me to show them that I believed in them – so they could believe, too.
Graff’s Albie does things just a bit slower, but he tries just a bit harder – in math, in spelling, in figuring things out. Here’s a passage I read and re-read and teared up over each time:
“I bet no one noticed either that when Mr. Onorato came in for science last year and asked who thought the tall, skinny glass could hold more water than the short, fat one, I was the only kid who raised my hand wrong. I bet no one noticed, because I raised it really quick, and then I noticed nobody else had their hand up, so I put mine down. And I sit in the back anyway.
(It was a trick question besides, because both glasses held the same exact amount of water. Somehow everyone else knew that already.)
I bet no one even noticed I stopped raising my hand in class.
I don’t think that anyone but me notices any of those things. I’m really good at noticing.
I hope I’ll always be a better noticer than everybody else.”(pgs. 28-29)
The Albies I have had learned to be the best noticers: they noticed when it was time to leave the classroom to visit the school nurse, and when it was time to “lose” an assignment. They noticed the way their classmates avoided making eye contact when it was time to choose partners for projects, and they noticed the tasks they were assigned when they were finally chosen.
And they were especially good at noticing what I noticed. I think they hoped that I would always be a better noticer than everybody else, too. They were counting on it. Because, if I wasn’t noticing, what was the point of showing up every day?