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Distant Echo

If the whole Simon messy desk incident from last week was shades of young Matthew, on Friday I heard a report that took me straight back to my own school years.

When I was in elementary school, I was a good student. By middle school, I was a very good student. And by the time high school rolled around, I was often tops in my class. I tried to be low-key about it, as the only person I was really competing with was myself. Which is to say, I didn’t care if 10 others in my class aced the same class or test I did, so long as I did well. Still, word got out. Which resulted in many, many late nights caused by the twin circumstances of my own heavy homework load and the near constant phone ringing of friends calling for help.*

Simon’s work load is, as one would expect for a first-grader, pretty light. And yet, the pattern has begun. He told me that when his class breaks up into math workshops, his friend Katie is the one who remembers the teacher’s instructions and reminds Simon of what they are supposed to be doing. Then Simon sits down and does all the computation for the group.That’s more of a Matt story than a Jessica one. I would have remembered the instructions. **

But the next one? All me. Friday is math catch-up day. The students grab their unfinished assignments from the week and take time to complete them and put them in the finished assignment basket. Except Simon has always already completed his math. (Or at least he thinks he has. I suspect he’s not explaining his reasoning as he’s supposed to, as he’s already explained to me that word problems are stupid. “Just give me the numbers! I don’t need a story about them!”)

Anyway, during math catch-up time those who do not have catching up to do are to choose a math reader and continue working. Simon grabbed a math reader today, sat down to his desk to plug away at it, and immediately came up against distractions from three sides. One friend wanted to goof off with him. One friend wanted Simon to read math problems for him/her. And a third friend wanted Simon to solve math problems for him/her. Simon’s actual complaint was, “With M– not taking it seriously and everyone else always asking me for help, I couldn’t concentrate on my own work!”

Boy do I feel his pain on that one. And though the stakes are currently low, this is a problem I plan to nip in the bud straight away. I told him next Friday to shush his friends and tell them that since it wasn’t group work time, he needed to be quiet and focus on his own reader. And if/when they continue to ask, I’ll then write his teacher and find out how she wants him to respond. But they key is that he has to be the one to tell his friends to back down or ask his teacher for help doing the same. Otherwise he’ll never learn to say no (I had problems with this), and he’ll be up ’til midnight doing other people’s homework in eleventh grade, too.

*This problem completely disappeared in college for three compelling reasons: (1) at a large state university, it was harder for word to get out; (2) my college was attended by LOTS of really great students (yay bigger pond!); and (3) the few times fellow students asked to borrow my notes, they were faced with handwriting so bad that a professional epigrapher would struggle with it. Heck, I could barely read it!

**One day, Katie will have a fine career ahead of her as a technical project manager. Simon can then be the hapless programmer/engineer who can’t remember what day it is but crunches numbers or produces code like mad. Seriously, I’ve been watching this dynamic at Wells Fargo for over 12 years now!


2 Responses to “Distant Echo”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Some of your best nights were when you went next door to babysit. They couldn’t fine you!

  2. goldsteinrita says:

    Good thing we did not have cell phones yet!!

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