Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Person is a Person No Matter How Small

It's my last class of the day, and the hardest one to keep motivated. It's Saturday, and before they enter my classroom, they've already had music, Chinese, and English classes. Now they have Ms. Tamar for their third grade reading and writing class. Jeffrey told me one day his Chinese teacher is mean. I'm much nicer than she is. I notice he feels very comfortable interrupting the class with questions completely off topic. I imagine the Chinese teacher not putting up with that at all. I'd love to watch her in action, maybe pick up a few pointers. I must admit, English intimidates me. The grammar, the syntax..literacy in general instills a subtle fear in my heart, so I totally understand when these kids need to digress a little, and I often indulge them. When I ask them to turn to page 18 of their Essential English workbooks, Jeffrey asks me what year I was born. Clever tactic. I have discovered all kids are fascinated with discovering their teacher's age. I just don't feel that they need this information. But Jeffrey's question leads me to want to test his mathematical abilities, so I tell him. 'You're that old and you're not married?!' he asks incredulously. I laugh. The other kids are shocked as well. Susan tells me, 'You have to be married!' 'Why?' I question, quite curious as to where this will lead. 'Well', I can tell she's just made something up on the spot, as she often does when answering questions, 'the government says if you're not married, you have to sleep alone.' My mind races for an appropriate response to this interesting logic. 'Well, that's good, because then I don't have to hear anyone's snoring.' And with that, we start reviewing the homework from the previous week. The kids were tired, and Jeffrey keeps interrupting with questions, and he was starting to wear me down. Near the end of this one and a half hour class, I ask Alice, one of the quieter students, a question. Jeffrey blurts out the answer. I yell at him a little too harshly to let her give me the answer. That was the first time I yelled at any child this year. I feel guilty, and hope he isn't insulted. Immediately he and several other students say in unison, 'Her brain will shrink if you don't let her answer!' I was surprised they were quoting me so readily- that was something I had told them three weeks ago, and they still remembered it. I guess there were no hard feelings with Jeffrey. He had several more questions about Barak Obama, the crash landing of the disabled plane in the Hudson last week, and if the KKK was still in existence. I told him if we have time at the end of class, we can discuss all that, in addition to his questions about my time spent in Israel. When it was time to leave, I was taken with how small this boy was as he exited the room. He probably has more opinions about our current economy crisis than half the people I ride the subway with everyday, and yet he couldn't be more than four feet tall. I am really lucky to be here, I think to myself as I turn off the light and head out into the frigid night on a small street in Chinatown.


Anonymous said...

Nice post about the interaction in your class room. I enjoyed it. Sounds like Jeffrey asks a lot of questions. Is he really that curious or is he is trying to draw attention away from the lesson plan or to himself.

After class that day did you stop at any of the Chinatown stores that you recommended?


tamar said...

hi kevin! Thanks for commenting. You know, I think Jeffrey is genuinely interested in all of these things (and I know for sure students are forever fascinated with their teachers' personal lives) but my guess is that his motivation is more to get a break from academia. I did not stop anywhere that day, too cold!