I ran into one of my old students last night. I don't run into the kids I tutor outside of the center very often, because I don't live around where I work. But, last night I went out for a meal with a friend who lives on that side of town, and I bumped into Taylor, a girl I tutored last year.
What always strikes me about Taylor is how mature and poised she is! She's 14 years old and in high school this year. I hesitated to go up to her, as kids can be awkward when they see you out of context. (Miss Amy exists outside of her job? She has a life, and friends
? Impossible!) However, Taylor came right up to me and gave me a hug, and we had a nice chat about how she's doing in school this year. Instead of going into algebra, she dropped back into pre-algebra. At first she was kind of shy about telling me that, but when I assured her I thought it was a great idea, and said it must feel really good to be where she needs to be and not be playing catch-up all the time, she was much more enthusiastic. She has an A in the class, and got 100% on their last test. It was great to see her so happy and confidant. (I marvel when I think of how awkward and insecure I was at her age!)
Another example of my kids doing me proud came from Kyle on Thursday.
I was trying to teach Rory, my little ADHD princess, how to add decimals. This was my second attempt, and so far it's still a disaster. I tried to demonstrate with the base ten blocks
: nothing. (She was much more interested in playing with them than in listening to my demonstration.) I tried to demonstrate using coins: nothing. I tried fraction pieces and explaining how 1/10 and 0.1 related to each other and were the same: NOTHING!
Now, she could very well start adding decimals without
understanding exactly what they are and how they work: all she'd have to do is follow my instructions about "lining up the decimal point" and then add as usual. But she refuses. She goes to one of those expensive, touchy-feely schools that encourage kids to 'use their words' and 'explore' and whatnot, and she doesn't want to even try
to solve the problems before she understands them.
UGH. Anyway, there was lots of tears and flailing and an epic display of drama that only my little Rory can perform. I told her that she doesn't need to get this on the first try, and that she can take as long as she needs, and that I only want her to try
the problems; sometimes you need to learn how
to do a math problem before you can understand why
you do it a certain way.
Finally, after about 15 minutes of temper tantrum, Kyle gets up from his seat and comes over to us. I don't know everything about Kyle, but I do know that he is deaf and has a Cochlear implant, and also that he takes ADHD medication. I am guessing there might be some other developmental deficits going on there, but his mother never told us, and I don't need to ask. He's about 10 years old.
He comes over to Rory and says (paraphrasing): "Hey, it's Ok! Don't be upset! You can do it. Look at me: I'm deaf, and sometimes things are hard for me, but I don't let it make me sad. You shouldn't be sad either, because you can do it!"
My heart melted. Not only did he help make Rory feel a little better (even though, drama queen she is, she never did try those problems!), but he helped to remind me to be patient. I was getting frustrated with her, and though I think I did a good job of hiding it, his little speech went a long way in reminding me that these are little kids: they don't come equipped with all the skills and maturity they need to manage their frustrations, and keep at a difficult task until it's done; that's something that has to be taught. And it's part of my job to teach it.