Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Harder Than It Needs to Be
One day last week, I was helping "E" as he worked through some addition problems. We came to 7+0. He couldn't get the answer.
I used some counters. We counted out 7. Then I pointed to an empty space and said, "Here is 0. How many all together?"
E paused. "8?" he said.
I used counters again. I drew pictures on the board. I drew different pictures on the board. "How many do you see?" I almost pleaded "How many in all?"
Still he would guess 8 or 9 or something.
In passing I said, "E, I think you are making this harder than it is. Let's think together again."
We kept working until he finally got 7. Then he could add anything with 0 and get it.
This week we've been working on missing addend problems. (5 + ___ = 8) E was struggling again.
I drew pictures. We used counters. "There are 8 in all. We have 5. How many more do we need?"
He would guess randomly. I guess something in my face seemed familiar to him.
"Mr. Wiley," he said, "am I making it harder again?"
I smiled, took a deep breath, and we began again.
I learned two things that day from E.
1. The kids listen to what I say, even if it doesn't seem like it. I just made that quick comment, and he remembered it. That makes me quake a little bit when I think of other things I've said off-hand. I need to watch what I say and how I say it. I want them to take in good positive things and not negative things.
2. Sometimes I make it harder than it needs to be. I've been a first grade teacher for 2 months. I want to do everything as well as possible - and be like the others on my first grade team. But they've been doing this for a much longer time. They see things much clearer than I can. Sometimes just adding 0 can be a challenge...and creating centers can be a challenge...and working out how to offer supplemental reading...and teaching subtraction. I need to relax and just do the best I can, take a step back and look at the big picture and see if I'm making it harder than it needs to be.