Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A random act of kindness in a math class

Recently I have jumped ship from grading endless bad essays and begun teaching math. That's right, math. I loooooooove math. Now you know the depth of my insanity.

Anyway, back to the random act. Occasionally, I end up solving a math problem at the same time the students are solving it, for example, if I assign a problem as an "exit ticket" (or as Jake called them today, "get out of jail" card.

Yesterday I assigned a semi-complex geometry problem for an exit ticket, and in response to the groaning and remarks of "it doesn't work," "how do you do that" etc., picked up my handy-dandy mechanical pencil and began to solve it. This prompted several students to vigorously attack the problem and all of a sudden it was a race. Others just shook their heads at it.

Pencil flying, barely legible numbers forming, the solution flowed down the graphite rod and I said, with perhaps a little too much triumph, "Got it." Immediately one of my sharpest students, a freshman boy accelerated into geometry, said, "Me too." He is really sharp, so I figured he had solved it before I had and said so. He, showing just the briefest glimmer of a dimpled smile said, "I'd guess we solved it at the same time, Ms. Kurz."

How sweet is that? I'm certain he'd had the answer before I did. Maybe it's a small thing, and maybe no one else is as starved for approbation as I am to pickup how kind his comment was. Perhaps it's an immense thing. After all, anyone's ego is such a fragile thing, and freshmen boys tend to be prickly, self-conscious balls of thin, crystalline psyche.

Speaking of ego, it was a boost to mine as well. Somehow I have managed a classroom atmosphere that works for at least one kid; at least one kid can smile at me as we both share the rush of confidence that comes from solving a complex math problem, at least one kid knows I care about my students and can care about me enough to fib a little in order to make a connection to me with a random act of kindness.

People say often, "You really made my day." I mean it; he made my day. He gave me a huge shot of happiness, he lofted some warm fuzzies my way. I caught them. I feel good. I hope everyone can be the recipient of such a kindness. Be careful, it might be a tiny comment. You have to listen, be alert: random kindness is out there.

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