Sunday, January 2, 2011

FIRST GRADER Extraordinairre

Teachers sometimes wonder if what we're teaching will stick, prove useful, enrich a student personally. I tend to operate on the 10 - 20 year plan: my students will intersect with something that they may trace back. As I preach regularly, "Knowing stuff is fun."

I will almost never know. Oh, occasionally some student will pop up with, "Hey that thing you said….I hear someone on TV talking about it." But it's rare. I have to move on faith.

But here, I want to praise a couple of public school elementary teachers in San Antonio, who have connected with one special boy.

I have neither the training nor the temperament for 1st graders. Too jumpy. Too loud. But I’m sure part of their appeal is their hunger and eagerness to learn. This wanes a bit when to "get to smart," you have to wade through Hawthorne and Melville.

Grandson Drew is a singular 1st grader whose skills are exploding. First in reading. Yes, I know that 1st grade is when the formal instruction starts. Since September, when he spent a week with us, his reading has taken off. He is reading. Not memorizing. Not paging through familiar books. He picks up NEW and reads. When he hits a word he doesn't know, he tries to sound it out. Often the question, "How do you spell _ _ _ _ _?" These are usually words that stray from phonetic rules.

Ok, maybe not everybody finds this exciting. For me, I know that a reader has the whole world in front of him. Nothing can stop a reader. I'm jumping up and down. Inside. I'm a Gramma, after all.

Then, there's math. The kid amazes. He can add and subtract in his head although, yes, I know, his teachers will want him to show his work.

"Hey, Drew, what's 3 + 12?"

"Uh, 15." (no question in his voice)

"Yes. How about 15 + 3?"

"18." No hesitation.

"Wow. Now here's a hard one (he smiles really wide at this.) "Try 23 + 9."


(I included the answers for those of you who may not be as quick as Drew.)

In addition to these accomplishments, his Health/Fitness teacher has made a dent by teaching this 6-year-old about good nutrition. Really. My daughter mentioned she never really got the Food Pyramid; this teacher uses something else.

Drew explained that there are three kinds of food. GO, SLOW, and WHOA. You can probably start filing items into those categories and if you're like most of us, you have a lot of WHOAs.

So, Gramma the teacher decided to use out-to-eat for lesson time. "Drew, what on the table is a GO Food?" He pointed to his milk, his brother's mac and cheese, their side orders of broccoli -- I'm not kidding, they love broccoli -- and their mom's salsa.

"What about Mom's chips?"
"They're a WHOA! Food."
Gramma smirks at daughter.
"And what about Gramma's salad? Isn't that a GO food?"
He waved his finger over my plate. "Not with all that salad dressing. It's now a SLOW or maybe a WHOA."
Daughter smirks back.

I figure the teacher drilled them, as much as you can, in a limited time, in a gym, with many pairs of sneakered feet just itching to run.

I need to tell Drew's teachers: they're doing a great job and he's learning their lessons. And Gramma wants to thank them.


  1. "Train up a child in the way he should go..."

    Isn't it fun watching this occur from the "Grandma" seat in the Arena of Life?

  2. First grade is exciting especially with the right teachers. This is where their wisdom begins to burgeon.

  3. Love the stories and the picture of the handsome little guy. Smart as a whip, huh? Just like his mom! (And his grandma, of course!)