Friday, January 20, 2012

For Future Reference

So imagine you work as an aide in an elementary school. Purely hypothetically speaking, of course. And you spend part of your time in fourth grade. And in this fourth grade class they do math timings, which you've read about on this one awesome blog sometime in the past but you really can't remember where. And some of these kids have progressed beyond doing 30 problems in one minute and are working on doing 100 problems in 3 minutes. And those kids generally move to a back table to do that timing.

Now. Imagine that on this particular that a rather large group of fourth graders are doing the 3 minute timing. Such a large group, in fact, that the table is full and there are a couple of kids who still need spots. One observes the dilemma and quickly moves to the other back table. The other stands a few feet away from the first kid and stares blankly about the room, mostly at the full table.

You ask him what the problem is. He says there's no room at the table. You say to find another seat. He says he supposed to do the timing at that table. You say that's clearly not an option and just sit down somewhere and get going. He says but where do I sit. You say how about that almost empty table with another kid at it doing the exact same timing you're supposed to be doing right now. He ultimately ends up standing and using the counter along the back wall, but not after protesting that the timer has already started and he won't get the entire time. To which you reply that it is his own fault and that if he can't figure out that he'll have to sit somewhere other than a full table (and that he had plenty of time to do so) then he will have to take the consequences - in this case having about 2.5 minutes instead of 3. He looks at you in absolute shock and betrayal.

But, of course, this is all purely theoretical. It didn't, like, happen today or anything. And totally not to me.

I think I've mentioned once or twice that one of the things I like about working with older kids is that you can actually talk to them as opposed to talking at them which, let's be honest, is usually what you're doing when you talk to a younger kid.

So now I'm left wondering - when exactly is it that kids start to think? You know, logically? In my mind, this kid's internal monologue should have gone something like this: "Well, I'm supposed to come to this table, but it's full and there's no room to sit here. I still have to do this timing, and I have to have a surface to write on, so I need to find another space to do it. Oh, look! Here's an empty table 3 feet away from the first one! There's nothing special or magical about the other table that requires me to do the timing there, I'll go sit at the other table!"

Okay, maybe not that concise. But still, maybe something like "no seat . . . need seat . . . look, seat! . . . sit there!"

Seriously. Is that too much to ask? All day I've been thinking maybe it is, based on the look he gave me. And I get the feeling that this is something I should know - did I demand too much thought from a 9/10-year-old? I could see why this would happen if it were in a kindergarten or first grade class - they're still so determined to do just what they're told that such an adjustment might register as disobedience and getting in trouble. But it seems to be that by fourth grade a kid should be starting to recognize the times when adapting the instructions is necessary.

There's another kid who pulls at least one warning card almost everyday because he spends more time watching what others are doing and tattling when he thinks what they're doing is wrong than he does working on his own assignment. Needless to say, he almost never finishes the assignment which gets him in more trouble, and even though I tell him to quit tattling and mind his own business every time I'm the one who sends him to pull the card, he still - after five months! - has yet to make the connection between what he's doing and the results.

Then of course there's this kid. Who hasn't changed in the least and can still barely add two and two and heaven forbid you bump one of those numbers up to three!

My conclusion: kids are stupid a lot longer than they thought they were.

Now it's time for the experts to weigh in and make me feel better by telling me I'm wrong and these three clueless kiddies are the exception to the rule.


P. ost S. cript
There's just something about laughing babies that makes everything seem brighter. :-)


  1. Funny you should bring this up...I was contemplating this yesterday...thinking about how my higher-end kids are capable of "just getting" when there can (and should) be an exception to the usual procedure, and going for it, without being asked/told/given permission. Then there's a lower-end thinker (ha, is that a polite way?), who is in line to tattle....or to ask what to do about a problem, you know, one that could just be handled independently.

    1. Right? And it seems to after working with every grade, that third grade is about where they start figuring out that there are exceptions to the norms. Before that they really don't have the logic skills - I mean, kindergartners are barely out of the "I can't see it, so it no longer exists" stage when you think about it. But third graders have had 3 years of coming up against those exceptions and having the teacher show them how to wok around it, so am I really expecting to much out of fourth graders when I expect them to find their own work-arounds? I love how you always come back with "what do you think you should do?" when the kids ask obvious questions. I try to use it myself, but sometimes I just get blank looks . . . maybe I should work on my delivery or something. :-)