Friday, September 18, 2009

I Made a Girl Cry

Before the school break, I gave my year 11 classes a test on Microsoft Excel. It had a couple throw-away questions about the program, but the bulk of it asked them to write out Excel formulas. The results left quite a bit to be desired. A small handful of students in each class did well or relatively well, but even the better tests used commas and colons interchangeably. Many students spent the period copying down the questions and neglected to write in any sort of answer.

One such student is a girl who sits at the front of my 11.1 class, Sunula. I couldn’t find it in my heart to give out zeroes, so I gave her 1 point out of 20. Perhaps that one point is insulting and probably hardly a consolation, but hopefully it’s better than a zero. Sunula has a charming personality, and I’d made a mental note of her disappointing score.

After the tests were handed back, I started going over the questions on the chalkboard. I went through the steps slowly, and deconstructed questions to help students break down the questions. I glanced down at Sunula’s paper and saw she was working on some Business Studies homework. “Do you mind taking out your notes for this class while I’m here?” I asked. She smiled sheepishly and reached into her desk.

I went on going over problems. The first required a SUM formula, and we talked about functions and maths operators and all. I told them about how the word “total” in the question should be an immediate clue that a SUM function is needed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sunula had folded the top of the paper under to hide the grade at the top.

We moved on and talked about the MAX problem and the AVERAGE problem. I invited students to come up to the board to write their answer. Huia came up for MAX. Lamauta came up for AVERAGE. And then we were at the IF problem.

IF is difficult. I have as hard a time communicating it as the students do wrapping their brains around it. The idea of a mathematical logical test is strange. Nonetheless, I asked for a volunteer. Sunula burst from her seat in the front row. No other hand was in sight. It was a ballsy move on her part, and with no choice, I tossed her the chalk. Which she caught.

The correct answer was =IF(B5<60,”fail”,”pass”). wrote =IF(B5>D5,”fail”,”pass”). I swear, I corrected gently. We clapped for her. I gave her a compliment sandwich. I played up that it was almost all right, and I played down the few changes that needed to be made. I did it in passive, collective language, and I didn’t do that thing where I stare at her and her only as I give feedback. I used to hate it when teachers did that to me. I addressed the class.

Nonetheless, it had been a stressful series of events, and she quietly started sobbing. I felt like an asshole. But I played it down. I finished the test and assigned homework.

All this happened 5th period. So I pulled some strings 6th period. I got one of my year 13s to monitor my class while I ran home and grabbed some Ghiradelli chocolate out of the freezer. I had a year 9 go and collect the three volunteers: Huia, Lamauta, and Sunula. Pulling strings took a while, so there was about 40 minutes for things to cool down. I thanked the three of them for coming up to the board to answer questions, casually noting the trickiness of Sunula’s IF question.

She was all smiles. The tears had dissipated. Huia was gracious. Lamauta was baffled. “Why are you giving me chocolate?” He asked.

“I made a girl cry, dude.” I didn’t really say that.

I hope you’re finding ways to clean up your mess. Pictures below.

During my 9.4 class yesterday, a girl with a disability came into class late, and the kid on the far right scrambled to give her his chair. He took one of the heavy wooden stools.

For whatever reason, this child was in my 10.2 class on Monday morning.

In 9.2 today, this girl had a doodle of the Mary apparition in her notebook.

This note got passed around the teacher's lounge during interval today. It was clearly written by a student, though no one knew which one. On the outside, it said "Burn After Reading. Ok!" Though it's handwritten, it reads like a very long text message. Here is the text:
    DEAR U
    Hi! Wazz up. Luk this is hard for me to say yes or no becoz, I don't feel like making another girlfriend, but don't hate me, I have a girlfriend b4 but we broke up, 2 months ago, becoz of me, she don't like what I say to her, or don't kiss her when she live. If your love for me has any realty then that's for me 2!!! Um, I was very shock about your first letter, I really[?] didn't epect this to happen betwe u nd me. Luk I don't wanna hurt u, I don't know, if u know me well but this is so unbelievable. If I said yes, then promised me this is going to be a secret, between u nd me ok! Don't tell your friends either, becoz we don't know wate gonna happen. Sorry I dont know how to make or create your folafilaava [no idea what he means], becoz I'm not taking [talking?] Samoan. Maybe I'll ask you to talk to me 2maro, then we started things up, I don't if u really luv me, or I really luv u if ur free on Saturday, come, met me at the Paualalo market, just you. If u really luv me and if u wanna be wif me, do as I say. K plz don't tell anyone, I promised u, and u have to promise me ok.
    From me.


Barb Carusillo said...

If I ever run into you again, and want some chocolate, I will know what to do!

Your compassionate soul is showing Matt, when you want to take away some hurt like that. Deo Gratias

Unknown said...

Hey Matt, some advice for Sunula regarding her doing Business Studies homework in Math clas; tell her 'Don't rob Peter to pay Paul'. That's what my legal studies teacher repeatedly told me when she caught me doing Chemistry homework in her class - until one day she had enough and totally scolded me and my friends, lol - it's only funny in reminiscent hindsight I realize.

Anonymous said...

Malo Matt,
This was hilarious. You should've given her a sasa instead of some chocolate. You peace corps definitely have a way of making things better with chocolate. Back in my school days there, we had a Peace Corps teacher that hooked us up with some Hersheys chocolate everytime we got an A. Certainly brins back memories..

Lagi said...

LMAO at the love letter, that is such a Samoa thing to do and yes I got one of those too :D Only mine didn't go around the staff it ended up with a massive fasi! As for Sunula I agree with Chabz.

Toa said...

Samoans are so charismatic

Anonymous said...

I wish you were a peace corp in my days. They would tell us to write the right answer 100 times on the board and missed recess(playtime, intervals, whatever)

Arseneault Family said...

this was a very touching post! you're an AWESOME teacher!! way to be tender...we never know where people are coming from. WAY to go!