When it makes more sense to play baseball inside…

While I was doing my practicum we had to write journal responses. This is an excerpt from my first month as a student teacher in a classroom:

September 29th 2007

So, AK that’s a very interesting pattern. What is it a pattern of?” Mr. May asked of the student’s title page for the upcoming math unit, patterns. “Well, it’s a bird and then a nest and then an egg and then…” his voice trailed as he began to look up and to the left. “An egg that’s beginning to crack…” Mr. May offered. “And then another bird, so that the pattern repeats.” Mr. May continued. “Yeah.” Said AK as he returned to his colouring.

Another time I was working with AK when he was to write a story about a picture. In this picture there was a boy, a girl, they were holding baseball equipment, they were outside of a house, a window was broken and there was a baseball on the ground. I said to AK, “what is your story going to be about?” “Well, it’s about a boy and a girl, who are cousins and they were playing baseball inside and…” “Inside? Why were they playing baseball inside the house…?” Queried Mr. May. “Well, because the baseball is outside.”

AK is a boy in a grade 3/4 split who is just entering grade three and has yet to be coded or assessed by a psychologist; however, his behaviour leads you to believe that he may benefit from such an assessment. With that said, I find him altogether fascinating. There are sometimes where I feel that he is quite in control of himself and knows what’s happening in the world around him and there are other times where he retreats and communicating seems impossible. For example, AK has problems writing and as such he desperately tries to avoid it. Mrs. O has found a way around his reluctance for writing. First, she sits with him and asks him what he wants to write, then writes it down for him on a white board slate. She then gets AK to erase the words off the slate as he writes them. It’s as though the separation of tasks makes it somehow easier for him. Genius! I would have never thought of that. However, while I have seen this technique to work for Mrs. O, I was dumbfounded when I tried to employ the same technique with catastrophically different results. When Mrs. O asked me to scribe for AK (using the white board technique), he retracted and a pained look came over his face. He then began engaging in activities that I describe as avoidance behaviour, becoming quite introverted, curling up on the floor etc. Eventually, I was able to bargain with him and give him little incentives such as, “if you get this sentence finished you can press the easy button” (an automated button on Mrs. O’s desk, which the children delight in pressing). After we had finished I reflected a little as to why this technique worked for Mrs. O and not for me. Though I had seen Mrs. O successfully employing this technique, it was from a far and I was not able to marvel in the subtleties of the interaction. That being said, I think that when I reflect on the successes I had, I think they occurred when I tried to work with AK and frame it as though it was something that we were doing, for a common goal and when I tried to really understand his frame of reference.

In the end, AK has humbled me and taught me to accept that I am a student just as he is and will undoubtedly be for the rest of my life (even when I am a teacher, I am a student in learning to become a better teacher). He has also provided me with the most eye opening experiences as to the complexities of the classroom; a classroom with a myriad of different learning styles, abilities and strengths. Perhaps the most valuable lesson that he has imparted on me is that, in order to truly teach someone, you must first try your best to understand them and how they understand the world… because sometimes it just make more sense that you are playing baseball inside.

Cameron May is a substitute teacher with Rocky View School Division.
Follow and share ideas with him @elbow_patch.

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