Monday, November 16, 2009

San Antonio Revelations

My jaunts to San Antonio are always filled with new experiences. We’ve ‘done’ the River Walk. We’ve driven through the live zoo with its voracious zebras and aggressive ostriches. (If you’ve never been within pecking distance of an ostrich, you’ve not truly lived on the edge.) We’ve eaten at Rudy’s.

And Sunday night, I got to experience the wonder of watching my grandson think his way through some math homework. Yes, it’s kindergarten and yes, it was simple, but as he labored to get it right, I could sense his concentration and I could almost see the wheels turning inside that magnificent skull.

As a high school teacher, I’m more accustomed to building on a student’s foundation, laid by an earlier teacher and, hopefully, fortified by his own thinking. It’s a different process. I work to bring new information to my students, to craft thinking experiences where they can stretch those gray cells. Often, I bring in an editorial or some news item where they can read (read!), think (think!), form an opinion and then verbalize the same. It’s good exercise and it primes that pump for more learning.

But as Drew colored three cubes to match the three race cars, as he matched two cubes with the picture of the two puppies, as he laboriously traced the dots to create the number 3, he was intense in his concentration. He’s a lefty; he holds his pencil (with name embossed….gift from Gramma) a bit awkwardly and after the tracing, the freehand 3 needs a bit more practice. But, there is no frustration, only deep effort to get it right.

And these are the fundamentals on which he can build as he continues through school.

He brings home something to do almost every day. It requires around 30 minutes of table time with someone nearby. And as this home values education, the school work will get done, ahead of basketball practice, shopping trips, television, and any other interruption.

He’ll practice writing numbers and letters and he’ll learn to organize his day around getting homework done. But even more important, his brain will nurture the seeds that have been planted, where he’ll continue to make those amazing connections between symbol and tangible amount; between individual letters and words; between sounds and actual reading.

What an amazing creation is the human brain.

Last night, my grandson ran through the alphabet, saying each letter and then making the sound of that letter. He looked at an advertisement and sounded out “Office Max” as a place that holds many wonders, like makers and clips. (“Hey, they sell clips!) And then, ta ta ta DA! Drew read to me.

Thank you, Miss Brown, for the work that you are doing.

Drew is in the class with the youngest kindergarteners. It’s all day and the teacher is not permitted to give them a rest period. And as this 5 year-old would still take a nap if given the chance, I’m betting the afternoon gets l-o-n-g. But she has to know that these little blooms are growing strong and wise within her care.

Teachers get used to the other kinds of kids, those whose homes don’t value education. With no incentive, few kids will choose the grind of table work when other adventures beckon. Can these students learn at school? Well, of course. And many do just fine without home encouragement. But so many do not.

It’s essential to school success that a child learn to read, to write a bit, to work some basic ciphers and to value what he learns. More than almost anything else, these skills will help him become a successful student. Go Drew!

Mom also got an inside view of the life of a first-year resident. Think Grey’s Anatomy without any of the social life. Her schedule changes from month to month. Right now, she leaves her home by 6:00 AM with every hope of getting home before the boys go to bed at 7. Sometimes, she makes it and there are hugs and reading time.

But, she’s a doctor, you know? Several times, as she was about to come home, a sick person arrives and she must stay. It’s ultimately her responsibility. She tells me that it’s common for first year residents to feel burned out. And it should get better, in about a year and a half. When you have little ones, that’s a long stretch.

Thank God for Aunt Sherry, who has arrived and is now caring for the children. Sherry is a most organized, no-nonsense kind of nanny. And she cooks really really well. And she LOVES to cook. She also sings like an angel and keeps the boys on schedule.

Since her arrival, there are many tangible evidences of order and calm: all the socks are sorted, matched and put away. The counters are cleared and the pantry is stocked.

Drew must catch the bus at 7 AM, about 1 block from their door. As we walk to the stop, a small mob is forming; many are now friends on this trip to school. He returns home at 3. After snack and wind down, he will get that homework done.

So for now, Noah, 3, sits a few feet away, playing marbles with Aunt Sherry. Then there will be reading with Aunt Sherry. “I love this book,” she says to him. “Do you love this book?” He does.

Another reader some day soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment