I should have written this yesterday since it was Pi day. But, I came home from church and was really in love with my church and I needed to write about my church so I did. Which is cool. And actually ties into this post. Because this post is for Laura.
Two and a half years ago, the Boy started sixth grade math and went from doing okey-dokey to fail. No ee sounds at the end of that word. It was bad. And by bad, I mean that it was really bad.
Tears. My Boy who doesn’t cry about his grades was crying in class and banging his head on the desk. And the teacher tried to be nice but I don’t like her version of nice very much because it isn’t mine (sorry-not-sorry for the bias here) suggested that the Boy should be pulled from her honors class and dropped to a non-honors class.
Now, I’m biased about my kid. I think he’s pretty smart. I also don’t think that he is a super-genius. I have taught some pretty friggin’ smart super-geniuses and I know when my own kids don’t fall into that spectrum of brilliance. And I’m okay with that. I really am.
However, (comma but…thank you Kyle) I also know what happens in the lower-level classrooms. I have taught in those and I loved teaching those kids and I will happily teach those kids again. Here, I am not being biased or ugly so keep your caustic commentary (gotta love the alliteration here!) to yourself. But, you have to understand that, depending on the mix of kids (much like you will see in the honors classes), teaching can actually be competing because some children will consider the teacher a competitor towards who can control the classroom.
So, yes, I would rather see my son struggle a little as opposed to watching a potential three-ring circus of non-education. If you think I’m evil, that’s fine. Get in line behind everyone else and take your turn with yelling at me.
Anyhow, on back-to-school night, parents asked the math teacher that if their kids are struggling what could be done. The teacher said (I’m fairly certain) that she offered tutoring and test corrections (don’t quote me as I have a crappy memory). Cool. So, when the Boy started struggling and the teacher suggested that he drop down a level, I asked her about tutoring and extra help. Her response….
Honors students are smart enough to figure out the problems for themselves and she and the entire math department will not tutor their honors students.
Excuse me? What? Run that by me again?
Because I teach honors students and sometimes they don’t get what I am teaching and I am more than happy to work with them. I will choose not to re-teach students who decide that sleeping, texting, or ignoring me are better choices than listening. However, if a student is struggling, then I am more than happy to help that kid. Because I don’t get everything the first time (shocker!) and everyone can use a little push now and then. Sorry, but not all honors kids are Einsteins (and he couldn’t remember his own address and needed help from the police to get home if the myth/rumor/story is correct).
So, I was quite a bit pissed that my son who is crying in class and having his dignity and self-respect being challenged daily because the kids would sometimes tease him was also being told that he would not get the one-on-one help that I thought the teacher had said would be offered to the struggling student.
Now, one big deep breath later, I decided that I would not drop my son to a lower level. I did decide, though, to get him a tutor. I didn’t care about cost. I cared about my son and his dignity and his self-confidence. He didn’t need re-teaching of the same subject matter (what would happen if he dropped down a level). He just needed someone to take a little time and show him the process of arriving at the correct answer.
So I looked around my classes and thought about students whose personality would mesh well with the Boy and would encourage the Boy as opposed to discourage him. And I saw Laura, this incredibly compassionate young woman whose quiet personality with a huge load of humor was a perfect fit.
And I asked her if she would be willing to tutor the Boy and she was and my heart started to beat a little easier because I had found someone who would be willing to care for my Boy with the compassion that he needed. Because he was feeling stupid and incompetent and pounding his head on the desk publicly was more comforting than his teacher (anger here….lots of anger).
Every Tuesday night (I think it was Tuesday….), I would take the Boy and the Girl to Barnes and Noble to meet Laura. I’d buy everyone a drink, a cookie, and a bit of happiness and then would sit at one table and read or grade or just praise the Lord and Laura and the Boy would sit at another table and she would patiently walk him through the math. She didn’t tell him how to do everything. She was his guide, his navigator, gently nudging him past his un-confidence and directing him towards the right way.
She was his Virgil to his Dante as they walked through the seven circles of Hell. She was his Beatrice to meet him on the other side and lead him through Purgatory and eventually up into Heaven.
And Laura is a Christian which means even more to me. Now, for all you critical souls out there, would I have hired a tutor who wasn’t a Christian. OF COURSE! But….well…yeah. I don’t know what I want to say here so I’ll just go back to my original train of thought without a transition.
The fact is, Laura is a Christian and a genuine and authentic one at that. She doesn’t have the Pharisee pretension and she doesn’t run around with her nose in the air or a plank in her eye (check out the New Testament for the reference), thinking she’s better than everyone else because she loves Jesus. She is humble and wonderful and funny and compassionate and wonderful and I have repeated myself and didn’t use commas because that’s how great Laura is. She defies grammar and English conventions.
She raised the Boy’s spirit. She gave him the confidence to pass math his sixth grade year and his seventh grade year. Yeah, last year, he scraped by a second time and I talked with him about getting another tutor, but he chose to do the work on his own. And this year, this wonderful year, he hasn’t gotten below a B the entire year. Whether it’s his teacher or the fact that he’s grown up a bit and his brain is a little more developed, I don’t care.
I blame it all on Laura. Yeah, you heard me. I blame Laura. She’s guilty for the fact that my son feels really good about himself and is feeling confident enough to take Algebra 2 Honors next year. Oh my soul, my Boy is happy about math. He feels great that he is doing better in math than his father or I ever did.
Laura, I should have written this for you yesterday. As you were posting all those wonderful pictures of pies on pi day, I smiled and laughed and went to church. But, you see, I still think it’s appropriate that I wrote about humbly serving God first and then wrote about you second. Because I also have looked at your pictures of mission trips. And I remember your gentle words about helping the homeless in our local communities. And I will never forget you sitting on the other side of the table, a cookie and a juice-drink in front of you, showing the Boy how to do ratios or proportions or word problems (that I consider bad literature). You were the true example of God watching over the sparrow. You were the true example of humble service without thought of yourself.
So happy-after-Pi-day. Happy Sunday, Laura. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being an angel on Earth. You know what’s funny….I almost wrote angle….