A Day of Ups and Downs

So today was a crazy day. It started out around 1:30 this morning when I woke up and read an email. Why was I awake at that time? I have no idea. However, I saw my phone blinking and I’m one that has to know why. So I looked. It was an email. After reading the email, I didn’t think it was the best. I thought I had done something horrible and that I had no way to fix it. I initially had given up.

Well, when it was time for the phone call, it was not as bad as I had made it out to be. In fact, it was not as bad as anyone thought it would be. It was a strange blessing in disguise. The thing is, I had blogged about the email and giving up before the phone call, so I had to retract the message. However, I had a wonderful comment already from a fellow Plurk Buddy, Dan Gross. I wanted to share his comment with all of you. This was wonderful to read!

I’ve been in education almost 20 years now. I’d define “giving up” somewhat differently. In this case, the school is going to try a different approach to working with this student – it just doesn’t include you. Sometimes you have to try something different when the way you’ve been trying it doesn’t work. My automotive friend has 28 different hammers in his shop – and every one has a purpose.

We often say that if you really want to learn something, teach. My 11yo TAG son has recently been “assigned” another student in his 5th grade class to tutor. Math is not my son’s strongest subject; even TAG kids have personal variences. The girl he is tutoring has trouble staying on task. He repeats himself often. He’ll explain three steps – she’ll follow the first.

Every day he brings home homework because time with her eats up his work time. He feels frustrated and angry. “She won’t listen!” He’s used to things coming relatively easily, and while he’s still high in Math its a subject he has to work at more than other subjects where he independent studies.

But its this connection – a shared weakness – that he understands. “You know how Math is harder for you? This is what your partner feels every time she sits down to work.” And each day she still takes home homework, although maybe a little less than if my son wasn’t working with her.

Is it fair? No. He’s not in school to be free labor. He’s there to learn. But, he is learning… He’s learning that we are all gifted differently, and how to work with those who have other abilities. For those who haven’t spent a lot of time with TAG kids, they ARE Special Ed kids as well – with the same extraordinary needs that kids on the “other” end of the spectrum have. “We professional educators” kind of forget that some times.

My son often wants to give up. And I would be upset if I saw this “lesson” continuing on for much longer than it needs to. But right now – I think its a great lesson for him, and all of us, to learn.

She may never be the head of the class, but she now has a connection and motivation she never had when it was an adult working with her. My son has learned not only the math concepts on a higher level, but has developed empathy with what others go through and a patience and determination to see himself in a new light. (He views himself as “terrible” in Math – it is a relative self-view. He would not be doing this job if he was “terrible.”) And the teacher, well – she tried something new – another hammer in her toolbox.

In 5 months that child would have been out of your classroom anyhow. And more than anything, if you’re like me, at the end of the day you really just want to see every child do their best. So don’t look at this as giving up – think of it more as trying a new approach to helping every child find their own stride…

Keep up the good fight! Hang in there…

I just want to say thank you to him for these kind words and hope that you have enjoyed reading them as well.


About Anthony Purcell

I am Anthony Purcell and I am currently teaching math in Oklahoma.
This entry was posted in Education, Kindness. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s