Maybe I haven't told you, but I'm teaching 5 mornings a week in a Kalihi school, a bunch of darling little(?) first graders whose families have moved to Hawaii from the South Pacific: Samoans, Tahitians, Chukese, Marshall Islanders... I unobtrusively measured my tallest student today, and the top of his head came up to my nose. A beautiful 6-year-old with a shiny braid down his back, he will probably top 7 feet when he's a man.
I park a block or two away from the school, and enjoy seeing the fancy skirts most the huge mamas wear: gathered at the waist, reaching the ankle, with flowers of contrasting colors appliqued on, or a skirt made of wide strips of contrasting colors, or...seems like anything goes. The giants chatter back and forth in a language totally unfamiliar to me.
Their kids are great. I'm hired under Title 1 funding, so I must test a lot of the kids on reading each day, giving special time and resources to about six of them. No Child Left Behind, you know. Since English is not spoken in their homes, we do a lot of vocabulary-building, too.
After recess, we do math. I'm in awe of how math is taught nowadays. If I had been taught this way in First Grade, numbers would have made a lot more sense to me. One day after the teacher led them in an explosively active presentation, one little girl sighed, "I just love math."
One boy I work with out on the lanai for a half hour or so most days just conquered 5. Using "manipulatives", that is, tiles, dinosaurs, cubes, or lots of other interesting objects, he figured out that 2+3=5. When he flipped the 2 and 3, his eyes grew wide and so did his smile. Amazing! It works that way too! Some days, we use my calculator for extra fun. When the answer appears in the window, we both whisper, "Magic!"
Zero was a difficult concept. If he had 5 to start with, what could he add to it to still make 5? He kept coming up with too large a quantity. After a couple of days, the light bulb went on. Zero! Another breakthrough.
That's like writing a book. I try this and that and it doesn't work. I put it away for a few days or months, come back to it, and Eureka! The plot falls in place. Amazing!
When 11:15 am comes around, I get my purse and umbrella and head for the door. The lead teacher says, "Thank you for coming, Mrs. Masters." That's the signal for a bunch of the kids to mob me with hugs, almost knocking me over. I love that. Hugs are nurturing. Widows don't get many, you know.
What's your favorite memory of learning to read or do math?