One of the joys of having new students joining our community is seeing them transform. For some students this is gaining confidence; for others, it is a respite for bullying. Academically, this can take the form of either a chance to finally extend to their ability (we don’t limit children here by grade levels – in fact, we are sometimes hard-pressed to give a child’s actual age/grade level). It can also be the chance to finally master a skill.
Most of our work takes time to see – it is not often that you see change in one lesson. However, yesterday, I had just that opportunity. A boy who joined us came in with ‘under-mastery’ (let’s call it) of basic arithmetic. We had worked for these first four weeks on concepts that teachers long ago should’ve taken the time to show him – like the pairings of 8 & 2, 7 & 3, 6 & 4, 9 & 1. Yesterday he sat down to some math presented in a new format – via the computer, test style. He sat in tears – he’d NEVER be able to solve these numbers. I said to him – “just try… but write it down on the paper first”. One problem got its immediate feedback (the benefit of a computer). He gave me the ‘hopeful eyes’ look. Two problems correct garnered the ‘surprised eyes’ look. Three problems and he forgot aboout me completely. At a final score of 8/10 he forgot his surroundings and exclaimed “I can add and subtract hundreds!”.
In most classrooms the other children would’ve snickered. Instead, as is the Headwaters way, the boy beside him looked and said “of course you can. You’re smart!”.