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Whoa! Didn’t See That Coming!

[Editor’s note: Mr. Foteah is a second-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at The World As I See It, where this post originally appeared.]

Motor Mouth, one of my least mature students in terms of behaving in accordance with the expectations I and school demand of a child his age, has really impressed me the last few days.

One of the traits I correlate with him more than any other is his propensity for raising his hand and then speaking without giving much consideration to what is about to come out of his mouth.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He is still the loudest during morning unpacking and the most distracted during independent reading. But, for whatever reason, he has, this week, been putting forth the most cogent arguments I have heard from him all year, and some of the best from the class as a whole.

Case in point: My class is one of three in the building that is piloting a test program, in which, rather than respond to their books every night, they are only doing it twice a week. We’re trying to study whether such a system results in greater reading stamina and/or improvement in depth of thinking.

Yesterday, I asked the class for their opinions about the change in structure, preparing some anecdotal evidence to present to the administration. Motor Mouth raised his hand – as he always does (it’s one of the things I really like about him) – and offered this paraphrased gem:

“We used to have to write every night and there were times when I had nothing to write. So I really wasn’t thinking much. Plus, we had to write post-its as we read, and we had to stop to do that. That made the books less enjoyable and harder to understand. Now, I feel like I’m improving in two ways. I’m improving as a reader because I get to just read and not stop. And I’m improving as a writer because I have a lot to think about and I can really write well.”

Well, Motor Mouth! With thoughts like that, keep motorin’!

Let this serve as a reminder to us. While it may seem like we are sometimes, or always, teaching classes of beings who constantly look at their fingernails as if they magically appeared this morning, or stare out the window as if a dragon was floating by wearing a top hat, or marvel in the wonder that is lead pencils, these kids are listening to us.

What an unexpected and pertinent lesson to keep in mind.


1 Comment:

  • 1 Melinda Ehrlich
    · Mar 17, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Just reading about Motor Mouth endeared him to me. Although I taught high school English for 33 1/2 years (also in Queens) your student seems very advanced for his age and I was impressed by his sense of language. At least he writes complete sentences – which is more than many of my teenagers were able to do.
    Kids like Motor Mouth should encourage you to stay with teaching. It can be very rewarding. I remember some kids from my first few years as if it were yesterday.