Posted tagged ‘math class’

Middle School…Because’s

May 4, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              May 4, 2019

                               

It’s a big word in middle school, overused and misunderstood!

Because!

It arrives at the crossroads of question and answer or, better yet, confusion and illogical reason.

This week it made more appearances at our middle school than UPS. The packages were in different sizes and forms.

For example, yesterday a student was completing a math test. One of the problems had him deciding which choice was better…if you bought 10 oranges for $4.00 or 17 oranges for $6.49…and then to explain why you decided on your choice? The student chose the right answer, but he hadn’t given an explanation. I said to him, “Buddy (not his actual name)! You need to give an explanation.”

He looked at me with an expression of disbelief about my request and then placed the pencil lead on the paper and wrote. His words lay as flat on the page as his reason.

“Because it is!” That’s what he had written. “Because it is!”

“Buddy, that’s not an explanation. Because it is…that doesn’t explain anything!” He focused his eyes on me through the lens of his eyeglasses. “Why do you wear glasses? Because you do…is that the reason?”

He nodded yes. “No, you wear them to help you see. Because isn’t an explanation, it’s an excuse.”

He looked back at his paper and erased…the right answer and the explanation, replaced them with the wrong answer and the explanation, “Who needs 17 oranges anyway!”

Earlier in the week a student in one of my classes had been caught playing video games on his cell phone in the midst of class, a no-no for seventh graders! I had him take his phone to the office, but then he never came back to class. Later on the security person found him hiding in the library. During lunch he came back into the classroom to get something. His quick look towards me conveyed irritation and anger. I had probably interfered with a career high in his game score.

I asked him why he hadn’t come back to class after taking his phone to the office. His eyes were doing bodily harm to me as he answered, “Because I didn’t want to!” There it was! The pathway to understanding…the word that our parents used on us followed by the tail ending of “I said so! And that’s the only reason you need!”

If an educator begins a question with the word “Why” there is a good chance the student will answer with a “because” statement. The probability of “because” increases as the end of the school year approaches. 

“Why did you set off firecrackers in the cafeteria right by the nacho bar?”

“Because!”

“Why did you think it was okay to wear a tee shirt with the middle finger prominently displayed on it?”

“Because…the shirt was clean!”

“Why did you throw his shoe on top of the building?”

“Because I wanted to see if I could do it!”

Of course, why do 12, 13, and 14 year olds do a lot of the things that they do? And, in a few years new ages will be inserted into that statement! And then many times in the years following it will be said again about adults…adults at tailgate parties, adults speeding down turnpikes, adults trying to cheat on tax returns and/or their spouses. 

Because becomes the answer to the unexplainable and actions that have not wisely been thought through. And why is that?

As Buddy would say, because it is!

Observing Junior High Math Class

February 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                February 10, 2016

                                 

On Monday I sat in on two different junior high math classes. As I’m gearing up to be a substitute teacher I wanted to experience another classroom situation, and also to revisit the subject that I had difficulty with back when Moby Dick was a minnow. I was great with numbers…and then some wise guy started including letters into the problem. I got lost in the midst of “x’s” and “y’s”. If you asked me how much 45 times 20 was I could tell you faster than an adding machine, but put a letter into the mix and I floundered like a fish flopping in the bottom of the boat.

But I went willingly to this classroom of formulas and adolescent confusion, and I learned several things. One, that I actually understood part of the lessons, and enjoyed it…kind of!

Two, that junior high boys haven’t changed since 1968! Oh, they have fancier devices now, but at the core they are twins two generations removed from those who sat in the same classrooms.

Thirteen year old boys still make noises. When the teacher was on the other side of the room there was a good chance that a farting sound would come from somebody. One boy broke out in a humming sound until he was asked to keep it quiet. Pencils were used at various moments as drumsticks on desk tops. Fingers were snapped against open jaws to make popping sounds.

Junior high boys make noise!

Junior high girls ranged from totally quiet to “Chatty Cathy’s”, who would suddenly erupt in nonsensical comments. During a class time when students worked together on an assignment you could hear snippets of conversations about Super Bowl Dorito’s commercials, the half-time entertainment, and what was eaten that day for lunch.

Junior high boys still like attention. I identified the three boys in the first five minutes of the class whose social standing was based on their wisecracks and off-the-wall humor. They weren’t malicious…just in need of being noticed.

Junior high students are special. Several people asked me why I would observe in a classroom of 8th graders. Was I on some kind of probation and this was part of my sentencing? Did I not get that memo about how junior high boys cause hair-pulling and temporary instructor insanity?

Actually, I enjoy thirteen year olds just as much…maybe even more…than sixteen and seventeen year olds.

There you go! Now you know I’m warped!