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Sallie Mae and the

Stress Tree
Written and Illustrated by
Rachel Nall

Dedicated to:
This book is dedicated to my parents, and
the wonderful people who helped me
succeed in life. Thank you for your

When Sallie Mae turned 12, she and

her mother moved to a new house far
away from home. So she took a seed from
one of the bonsai trees with her, to make
herself feel at home in this new place her
mom spoke of.

When they got to their new home, her

mom took her to get a planting pot at the
store to put the seed in. She felt so
excited! What color to get? What style of
pot to put it in? But when they got to the
store, she felt strange

It was as if
everyone was staring at her, watching her
throughout the store. She hid behind her
mom, where she knows there is safety, to
get away from their dark faces and strange
eyes. Why were they staring at her?

When she got home she told her mother

how scary going to the store was. Her
mom tells her that it will all be ok. When
she needs to talk about it she can tell her
tree. They plant her tree seed, and find a
good spot in her room with a lot of

From then on, whenever Sallie Mae

needed to talk she would tell her tree her
dreams and troubles. The small bonsai
tree grew along with her, slowly creeping
taller. Sallie has always been an
imaginative girl. Always exploring her new
house for new spaces to imagine new
stories in.

All too soon for her though school started,

and Sallie had to get ready to go to this
new school. She fretted and worried, told
her mom I am sick and well I guess I
wont be able to go to class. Her mother
would comfort her, telling her You are so
brave, you will be fine. Be strong.

When she got dropped off at the school

the very first day she originally felt very
confident. But slowly the same strange
sensation she had experienced at the
store crept back upon her. Sallie just knew
that this day was going to be bad! They
would somehow know about all of the
school she had missed before, and how
that put her behind in classes.

Slowly she felt their eyes shift onto her, so

she quickly ran to her class. When she got
to class it was as if the doorway was a
cave to her doom, she immediately found
the seat in the far back of the room and
claimed it for her own. Nobody could stare
at her from all the way back here!

The teacher, Miss Gail, started to call roll

slowly working her way across the room.
Adam, Christopher, Greg, slowly creeping
towards her name Sallie Mae. Sallie
timidly raises her hand feeling the
pressure of her chest being squeezed,
barely squeaking out a Here.

Maybe Miss Gail noticed her timidness,

because she did not call on her for the rest
of the day. The class period goes by in a
blur, she feels like she cant even focus on
the material. The numbers and letters are
dancing on the page, and the new teacher
talks so fast. She will never keep up with
her notes at this rate!


That night when Sallie Mae goes home

she waters her tree and tells it about her
day. She talks about the stress of being in
a new place with only her mom, how she
hides in the back of the class, and how
she has no way to keep up with the class
work. Sallie cries a few drops into the soil,
and the bonsai tree starts to grow as she
does this.

As the week continues she still feels very

jumbled during the lessons she is
supposed to be learning. She sometimes
does not feel well enough to go to school,
staying home with her mother. She can be
brave at home, why not in class?


Every day after class Sallie Mae goes

home and tells her tree about her day, and
slowly the tree grows. The tree is growing
slowly and is strangely gnarled, its bark is
not rich and brown, and it has grown no
lush leaves.


Sallies teacher has started to notice that

shes falling behind in class, also in her
class work. Miss Gail wonders what she
can do to help Sallie Mae feel at home in
this new environment, and to support her
learning needs.


The next week when Sallie goes to class

she notices some changes. There is a new
schedule at the front of the class! Its
colorful with writing and pictures, she
wonders what it says. When Miss Gail
arrives in class she explains what this new
schedule is, that every week she will write
down what assignments are due on what
days. That this will let the class know what
is coming up for the next week.

Sallie dutifully writes down the next few

days in her journal, and feels a little less
overwhelmed. If she misses class again
she can do the work anyway, and is not
going to fall behind! That night she tells
her bonsai tree about her day and the bark
slowly starts to turn brown. No more tears
to water its soil.


Later the next week Miss Gail brings in

some sheets that she hands out before
class starts. They are something called
Cornell notes? All Sallie needed to know
though was that they had most of the
information written down for her already.
Now all she has to do is fill in some blanks,
and can focus on the lesson!


As the week goes on Sallie Mae is able to

focus on her notes, by not having to write
all of the text on the board down she can
focus on the key points in the text. This
made her feel like she can do this, maybe
this new school wont be so bad.


Slowly as she grows into this new home

her tree grows with her, growing small
leaves and looking healthy. Sallie has to
share fewer and fewer troubles from her
day with her bonsai. She still comes and
trims its branches, but needs less and less
of its comfort.


At the end of the week Miss Gail did a

small group project, and Sallie got paired
with one of her peers. They took turns
teaching each other about the lesson of
the day, and soon had a friendship going.
Sallie Mae was talking to one of her
classmates without hiding in her desk in
the back of the room.


After the first month Sallie Mae was

comfortable in the classroom, and getting
along well with her peers. She no longer
needed to depend on her mother or bonsai
tree to support her through her days.
One day Sallie Mae realized that the
strange sensation of fear no longer came
when she stepped into school. She started
participating in the drama club where her
imagination quickly moved her into making
the settings for plays.

After the first grading period the school

had a play. Sallie Mae had helped make
all of the stage props for the performance,
and some of the backdrops. She no longer
felt the need to be afraid or depend on her
mom every day, she had found her own


The Strategies
Early Intervention- Giving the students access to

accommodations that will assist them in staying on grade level

material and in general education classrooms. This allows the
students to develop relationships with their peers.
Visual Schedules- A visual representation of the weeks
schedule, typically displayed in the front of the class. It will
have pictures as well as the written information, it is especially
useful for students who miss school days.

Cornell Notes- A fill in the blank note taking strategy, that

teaches the student what is key information and how to take

more focused notes.
PALS- Also known as Peer Assisted Learning Strategy, is
where two students in the same learning level teach the
material to one another. It allows them to test their mastery of
the material, while building important social skills for the