Thursday, May 8, 2008

"And these children that you spit on;... they're quite aware of what they're going through."

My god, where is the time going? It was just the beginning of May yesterday (wasn't it?), and now we're almost halfway through. Time is whipping along and conversely, I feel like I'm slowing down. The kids have their EOGs (End Of Grade) tests in another week, and my little band of students I've been tutoring this year are down to the wire, trying to grasp concepts that will be on the tests.

This morning we went over some reading comprehension tactics, and then we hit the basics of Geometry. Luckily for them, it wasn't Algebra (hissssss), because I am a Stupe when it comes to math problems containing the alphabet. Mock me all you like - I'm used to it - but there it is. No, thankfully, Geometry is visual, and I'm all about the visual, don'tcha know?

Still, it was a struggle today. Part of the problem, I think, is the completely non-intuitive way math is taught. Figuring out the difference between area and perimeter is obvious to you and me, but to a kid, they're just words and without practical application, who wouldn't get them mixed up? With such a visual concept as Geometry, why use only paper and pencil to teach it? The third graders planted a garden this year, a perfect opportunity to discuss area and perimeter, but it went unavailed. They're doing mosaics in Art right now, but personally, I think Art and Music should teach theory/concepts that corresponds to the curriculum of the individual grade, further supplementing and cementing the concepts being taught in the regular classroom. Why not touch on perspective in Art while Geometry is being taught in the classroom? Wouldn't it render both subjects more readily absorbed?

I know the teachers do their very best, and I know they don't get nearly enough support from either the school system or the parents of their students. The kids who are struggling are usually the kids whose parents can't be bothered to lend a teaching hand, even for the benefit of their own child. It breaks my heart to see those kids struggle and finally, disengage from learning anything, all because no one could take the time to teach them, one on one. For some kids, one on one is the only way for them to get some of those trickier concepts, the only way to keep them interested and learning.

I've been thinking that next year I might not volunteer in so many classes. It takes a big chunk out of my week to do it - time that I could be pursuing my own interests. Then I go to school and work with kids who have never had fun learning and see the wonderment in their eyes when they really get something, and I think: "How can I abandon them? How can I think of just me when they may never get another chance to see how much fun it is to question and learn?" I can't do it. For whatever reason; maybe because I was one of those kids who was disengaged, maybe because I see what kind of misery lies in wait for the lost youth, I feel like even if I only reach one kid, that's at least one more kid who isn't slipping through the cracks.

If you feel like you'ld like to do some kind of volunteer work, but you're not sure what you would be good at, consider giving your time to tutoring or mentoring a kid. What better way to invest in the future of our world, than to try and save a mind, and maybe, a life?


Chanda (aka Bea) said...

You're right, school systems are not equipped to deal with the wide range of learning curves. And as for parents;you know my mom was a teacher for over 30 year, and parents were always her biggest hurdle 99.9% of the time. Sad.

Mentoring; it's something I've thought of doing as well. As a childless woman, that would be a fantastic focus for all those instincts.

This was an excellent, thought provoking post, and you should be proud of the time you spend at school with those kids. I know they will never forget the "lady with the mints" :)

flutter said...

Big brother's Big sisters. That's all.

Pare said...

Your last line is so true. I really admire you for the dedication of your time and brain and resources. It might be really hard sometimes, but you're giving an amazing gift.

Cheers to YOU.

Jennifer H said...

I admire your commitment and passion for these kids. They're lucky to have you.

Lara said...

I've often thought that I'd like to volunteer in a school.

And then I remember that I barely tolerate kids. I love my own, but other kids drive me bonkers.

Which is one of the reasons I switched from an elementary education major to a math major (without a teaching degree added to it.)

And then I think of some of those "aha" moments that my kids have when I finally get the math concepts to sink in, and I wonder how great it would be to help other kids love math as much as I always have.

And then I remember how much my second son hates math. And I realize that loving math isn't something you can make happen.

So I stick to working on computers. Because they listen to me. Usually.

FairiesNest said...

I got so burnt out after volunteering for in the kids' school for 14 years that I had to take a break...but maybe it's time to give it a try again.

thailandchani said...

I'm all about mentoring.. whenever, wherever and to whomever we can. :)

maggie, dammit said...

I think everything, not just math, could be more intuitively taught. I think we'd all benefit from going out and learning from real life, then talking about it in school. That's why I get so pissed when my kids' teachers give us a hard time about pulling them out for a short trip -- don't get me wrong, I very much value the classroom - but they are learning so much when they go out and see it in real life, too.

I don't know how to make it all better, but I DO know those kids are so much better off for having had you in their lives.

Heather said...

Hey there. It is always good to keep kids in need of help in our lives. It reminds us to live.

Ben & Bennie said...

I just discovered something else that is so very cool about you.