Friday, October 13, 2006

Getting It

When trying to learn something new I've often found myself feeling stupid because I just couldn't "get it." The person trying to teach me would loose patience after awhile and just give up on me. Now I am definitely not stupid. As a child I would most often run into this with my Dad. Something he found quite simple he could not convey to me (usually something mechanical.) Sometime later, weeks or even years, someone else would explain the same thing in a different way and suddenly I'd get it and wonder why Dad couldn't have just explained it that way to begin with!

When I was learning to drive a bus the man that was training me was quite certain that I'd never, ever be able to back up safely. (He is a very nice man, a patient man and I loved having him for a boss.) One day we found ourselves totally fed up with each other. I needed to back around the fuel pumps and into a space between two other buses and with a standard transmission. I couldn't do it and he couldn't tell me what I was doing wrong. He got called away to an emergency and told me to stay put, he'd send a mechanic out to park it for me. I was nearly in tears. So out comes this big mean looking guy (who is in fact a big teddy bear of a guy.) He told me to stay put, that I could do this and proceeded to tell me what he wanted me to do. I took a deep breath and slid that bus around those pumps and into that space just as pretty as you please. To this day I don't know what he said that was different but suddenly it seemed almost easy.

The tables were turned this week and I found myself unable to explain things in a way that a new driver assigned to me could understand. Knowing how I am, I tried to explain things in different ways. They just didn't get it. They are with a different driver now and I'm betting that things are starting to make perfect sense and we're going to end up with a very good sub. I feel badly that I couldn't teach in a way that they'd learn but as long as we've found someone that they connect with it's all good - right?

Mike is having trouble with math. He spent a half hour last night trying to do six problems. When he was done BJ checked his paper and he only had one right. So BJ explained to him how to do the problems. Then he had him erase all of the paper and start over. This time he finished in five minutes and got them all right. Great, except that Mike is required to show his work. To show his work he must use the method his teacher wants, adding columns from left to right. BJ showed him to add the columns from right to left and carry the 10's.

So my question is: as long as Mike can get the right answer should he be penalized because he doesn't understand it the way the teacher wants it done?

Liz, Nikki, Alex and Mike. They had a good time here yesterday but they wore me out.

We're at peak color now. My sympathy to all my friends in WNY. As much as I miss living in Akron I'm glad I'm not there for the weather this week!


  1. thanks for stopping by my place.

    interesting post. personally, i think your son should get credit as long as he has demonstrated he understand the concept and can do the work, even if it is not the 'teacher's method.' however, sometimes they are required to have the kids do it a certain way in preparation for some stupid standardized test they have to take that will only be graded a particular way. talk to the teacher and find out if he/she's are just being rigid because he/she's a dope or if some standard outside themselves is requiring this.

  2. Hi. I found you in Brian's weekly round-up. You've made a connection in my life because my husband is a school bus mechanic and is asked to drive upon occasion. I'm a grade one teacher. I sympathize with your son. I find his method easiest to understand as well, but know that the "new" way is right to left. In my school district, we are teaching the children that there is no "one" right way to find an answer. What is important is that you understand and explain the process. Like Lime said, maybe the teacher has a reason for being rigid. It's great when parents and teachers work together. I hope his teacher is open to working with you.

  3. Correction: I meant left to right is the way some schools are teaching. (Starting with grouping tens together, rather than making tens with the ones.)

  4. One of the most valuable things I learned as a teacher is that people have different learning styles and different teaching styles. It's difficult, when you have a large class, to differentiate or individualize instruction, but I tried to build choices into most of my assignments, so that kids could exercise their strengths and build upon their weaknesses. Of course, I taught English, not math, where there are few, if any, hard and fast "rules" about how to do things. I realized that most kids nowadays are visual learners, and since I am, by nature, a visual teacher, I was lucky in that most kids understood and could follow my instruction. It's really tough to be all things to all kids, though. I hope your son can find a way to adapt to his teacher's requirements. Would some resource help be something you would consider for him?

  5. Left to right? Adding left to right?
    Well, BJ better help me out too, cause I could never add like that. My youngest is in 7th grade and she still adds right to left.
    How you gonna carry and borrow if it's left to right???

  6. Funny isn't it, how one teaching method will work for a person where another won't? We all learn differently. I see that at school.
    I learned to add left to right when I was at school...that's the way they teach it at our school too, but it's still a bit different than the way I learned. Their way seems harder to me.
    Sweet picture of the kids :)
    Your colors were looking lovely. Like ours, they're probably almost gone by now.
    Can you believe all this rain??? Still!!
    Today's 70ยบ was lovely though, wasn't it?