Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Slice #25- Such a privilege

I meet A in the cafeteria the first week of school.  She is new at our school, doesn't have lunch money and some of her seventh grade peers are concerned. They wonder if I can help her get some lunch. As she eats in the almost empty cafeteria, we chat. I learn that A's mom is in jail, that she is living with an older sister and a toddler nephew, that she is interested in coming to school to see friends, but thinks reading and math are boring.

Over the last six months we've become friends, and she drops by to say hello on a pretty regular basis. Today, I run into her in math class. The class is supposed to be doing a math lab on the computer, but A's best friend, J, is providing a floor show, much to the first year teacher's chagrin. A is sitting beside her, not really participating in the comic chaos, but not getting the math lab done either. I kneel down beside her.

"What's going on?" I say, tapping the computer screen.

"I don't know how to do this," A says.

I'm a little surprised. A is a bright girl and this activity, having to do with dividing positive and negative numbers,  seems relatively simple.

"Yes, you do," J suspends her show and interrupts, glancing at the screen, where the problem -54/6 is displayed. "It's -9."

The computer deems J and A's work "Brilliant" and then advances to the next problem.

"-42/-7, that's 6," says J authoritatively. "Very good," says the computer, and the screen advances again to -30/5. J solves that one too, and then several more after that.

A reaches for the pad of post-it notes in my hand and writes me a note. "I don't know how to divide."

I am surprised. A is a bright girl and we have a great math teacher. I write a note back.

"You don't know how to divide, or you don't know how to divide positive and negative numbers?"

A writes again. "I don't know how to divide at all."

I take another post-it note. "Would you like someone to teach you?"

This time she has a one word note. "YES!"

Another note from me, "Would you like me to teach you to divide?"

And another one worder from A, "Yes!"

Another pink sticky note: It won't take us that long. You know how to multiply?"

A: Yeah."

Another sticky note: Well, then, division will be easy-peasy lemon squeezy. It's just the opposite of multiplication.

A looks at me doubtfully and writes another note. "OK."

I slide another note across the table. "So when do you want to start?"

A writes again. "I don't know. I 'll ask my mom."

I think about the rest of this week and write, "The week after vacation would probably work better for me. I can do Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays if you want."

This time A nods. Our conversation is over and she turns her attention back to her friends.

I'm so glad I walked through that classroom this afternoon. So glad I had a pad of sticky notes in my hand. So glad I get the privilege of caring for kids like A every single day.

Teaching. It really is the best job in the world.


Meg Blaze said...

Wow. This sticky not conversation in brilliant!!!!! She was brave to be able to admit that to you. She must trust you. You weren't just in the right place at the right time. You were the right person for that child.

Michelle said...

Love this glimpse into your world. What a magical moment and I love how comfortable A. feels with you. I need to carry around some sticky notes, just in case! :)

nf said...

What an awesome story ... Most of all that she felt safe and comfortable to confide on you... Too many students aren't able to make that connection with someone to confide in and therefore get unintentionally "labelled" otherwise. Thank you for sharing!

Ramona said...

So glad you've been there for A so that today's sticky note conversation could take place. I love this phrase: "..not really participating in the comic chaos..."! You could be describing my class.

Linda B said...

I'm glad you walked in, too, Carol. You must be one of her trusted people to have her admit that. And the sticky notes helped too. Lucky for her, lucky for you, too!

Stacey Shubitz said...

Wow. I'm glad you were able to have her open up about her need via sticky notes. You're going to get her the help she needs. Beautiful.

Karen said...

I love the stories you tell like this, Carol. You have a gift for inserting yourself in a child's life when they most need it. Post-it not conversation is just perfect. Hopefully, A will accept your offer of division help.
At the very least, she now knows someone is there to support her after this interaction.

writekimwrite said...

It is a privilege to be able to strengthen fragile trust and build knowledge bridges. The most important thing is the heart connection, though and that was (I believe) one of those God ordained moments. Special.

Michelle said...

I love this slice! I kinda got a little teary-eyed reading it because I miss conversations like this with those seventh graders so much! I'm glad I got to live vicariously thorough you!

You'll have to update us after break!


PS - Thank you for leaving me comments on a daily basis! I feel like a have a new friend so so far away!

Unknown said...

Carol, you are changing her life! Everyone needs that important person in their life. For A, it sounds like its you. That post-it note conversations are awesome! You are doing great things! Changing lives!