Tag: School

Geometry and the Shape of the World

Came into first grade today, and it was clear that M. was not feeling well.  I knew the class had a substitute today, so I was  prepared for some silliness and disorder.  M. doesn’t always like a change to his routine.  Instead, I found him with his head down on his desk, using his big orange coat as a pillow.  The rest of the class sat on the rug.  The substitute approached and informed me that M. was not feeling well.  He would be heading home, she said, but no one could pick him up until 1:00.  It was 11:45.  

I sat down next to M. after trying to help the sub with the other kids who appeared to have contracted severe cases of the sillies and the disorderlies.  M., by contrast, was seriously mellow.  He had raised his head and was now ignoring the math lesson, concentrating instead on a winter-themed word search.  After first informing me that in “word searchers” you were only allowed to go in straight lines, he added that you could go on diagonals, but under no circumstances were you permitted to “turn a corner.”  I thanked him for the instruction but told him that I was actually familiar with the rules of a word search.  He then showed me his most recent find, the word he sounded out as “hib-ernate.”  Note:  He subsequently accessed his prior knowledge and corrected his pronunciation. 

After a few minutes, I was able to pry him away from the search and  turn his attention to the geometry lesson on the rug.  He didn’t feel up to sitting in the circle.  He turned his head, fixed his glassy eyes on the teacher, and at least appeared to be listening.  Unfortunately, the lesson part was just about over, and that meant it was time for some practice in the workbook, not M’s preferred mode of learning.  I tried to recreate the lesson, pointing out a cube in the room, and a  rectangular prism or two.  M. was incredulous when I pointed to the globe and told him that it was a sphere.  “A spear?!  That’s not a spear.”   I had donned my mask around the time that the sub informed me that M. would be heading home soon.  It wasn’t so easy for the masked me to help M. with the “f” sound that a “ph” digraph makes.

“No, not a spear, it’s a sphere.  It means a three-dimensional round shape, like a ball.”

“Oh. Okay.  But why do they call it a spear?  It doesn’t look like a spear.”


M. did a good job of reading the directions and drawing lines to connect the word with the picture of the corresponding shape.  When it came to coloring the cones yellow and the rectangular prisms red, though, M. began to get a little bored.  He stared toward the window, but didn’t comment about the snowflakes falling from the sky.  Miraculously, no one in the class mentioned them, and snowflakes have been very rare in Connecticut this winter.  Instead, M. looked at me and asked, “Did God make all of us?”

I was expecting something more along the lines of “Do I have to keep doing this page?” Or “Can I go to the bathroom?”  I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I tried the old answer-with-a-question routine.  “Is that what you think, M.?”

“Yeah,” he said.  But he wasn’t finished with this line of inquiry.  “Was God alive at one time, like here on earth, and he’s just not here anymore?”  This is the kind of question that you ask of someone who seems very old, and could conceivably have been around during those “God in the flesh” days.  A primary source.

“I’m not sure,” I said, suddenly losing my question-as-answer skills.

“Cuz, God did a really good job with the world.”  I was curious about this.  Frankly, as someone experienced with feedback and evaluation, I could see some areas for improvement, but I kept this as an inside thought and allowed M. to continue.  “I mean, he built it really sturdy.  It can hold a lot of houses.”  I had to give him that one.  It does hold a lot of houses.  “Like, there are at least 300 houses in Connecticut, right?”  

“At least,” I agreed.  “It’s one sturdy spear.”

My Little Slice of Life

I sit at a small table with G.  I am supposed to be helping her with her literary essay, but she is more interested in the Dogman book that she has been reading.  G. is in fifth grade, but her emotional age is a bit below that.  When she’s not engrossed in Dogman, she spends a lot of time drawing My Little Pony characters.  

“So, G.,” I say,  pointing at her essay draft, “let’s take a look at your opening section.  Ms. D. wanted you to work on that in today’s workshop.”

“GET THE HECK OUT OF HERE!” G. shouts.  Now, G. can be a bit volatile, but this outburst seems a bit out of proportion considering what I have just said.

“Excuse me?  Why would you say that?” I ask.  I’m confused and bracing for a tantrum. G. doesn’t reply, but a smile spreads over her face.  She points to the page in the Dogman book. I look down at the page. “Oh, thank goodness.” I let out my breath. There, on the page is an enormous speech bubble with the ALLCAPS sentence G. has just shouted.  She was merely showing off her expressive reading.  She seems very pleased that it has also caused me some confusion and consternation.

“That was funny, G.  It reminds me of something that happened to me when I was a new teacher.”

“That must have been a long time ago,”

“You’re pretty funny, today, G.  But, yes, it was a long time ago.”

I proceed to tell her the story of a kid named Randy who said something pretty outrageous to me in front of the whole class.  I tell her I am thinking of writing a Slice of Life entry about it, but I’m not sure if I’ve already written it.  (It turns out I had.  Here’s the old story.)  G. isn’t impressed with the story about Randy, but her eyes light up when I say the words Slice of Life.  

“Slice of Life?!” she repeats.

“Yeah.  Do you write Slice of Life stories, too?” I ask, maybe a bit too hopefully.  

“NO! It’s a My Little Pony Friendship is Magic episode.”  She says this with the kind of impatience I probably deserve for not realizing the real meaning of Slice of Life.  How do I not know this most basic component of cultural literacy?  Doesn’t everyone know this?  

[For the record, when you Google “slice of life,” you do not automatically get My Little Pony hits.  You don’t get Two Writing Teachers either.  You get a bunch of pizza places.]

In this particular slice of my life, you also don’t get much revision done on G’s literary essay. 

We write for a bit, but then G. proclaims that she needs a break. She shows me how to draw several of the My Little Pony characters on the Smart board.  She is exasperated when she learns that I don’t know ANY of their names.  “And you call yourself a teacher?”  She doesn’t say this, but I can tell she’s thinking it.  She searches the web for the top ten most important (or foundational) ponies, pastes their images on the Smart board and proceeds to quiz me until I’ve learned them with some semblance of automaticity.  

I am pleased to report that after an intense and somewhat stressful session, I can now correctly identify Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Princess Luna, Princess Celestia, Spike, Applejack, Fluttershy (my personal favorite), Shining Armor, Twilight Sparkle, and Pinkie Pie.  I am still struggling with Cadence and Lyra Heartstrings.  

G. says we will continue to work on those trouble areas until I have achieved mastery.