I had spent some time getting ready for the last day of being a Learning Buddy for the first time. Upon greeting the kids that last day, it was immediately apparent they knew it was the second last day of school this year, as well as the last time we'd be meeting together. One of them, the first to arrive, fist-bumped me. And then he saluted, humming the Star-Spangled Banner. The four of us spoke briefly about this being our last time together and I said I'd like to give each of them a special puzzle to work on. Not necessarily math but brain exercisers. They thought this fine.
I gave each of them a sheet with his puzzle, got them separate spaces in which to sit/work, and left them be.
"I can't do this!" almost immediately from Fred ( name changed ), about the logic puzzle. I took him off to a corner, we chatted, he understood what the puzzle's question is, but had no idea whatever how to solve it. I gave him a clue and a light bulb seemed to go on. He began working on his "documentation" while I went to check on the other two boys.
They were struggling, too. I gave them permission to work with each
other … which didn't seem to change very much behavior. Neither of them clearly asked for help from the other and then explained his problem. Pretty soon Fred came … eager to share his solution with everyone.
Jumping on this opportunity for order, I suggested we all work on Fred's problem. Everyone agreed. "Whew!" I gave a copy of the problem to the other two boys, and all three of them read it together. Chaos ensued almost immediately, everyone both talking and wanting to write on the white board at once.
Eventually we had a reasonable facsimile of the problem on the whiteboard; everyone was puzzled. "Can I give them the solution?" Fred asked.
"Not yet … be patient," I said.
I eventually gave the same clue to the boy who was my SPIFF pal this year as I had given to Fred. A similar light seemed to go on over his head and he gave voice to a solution. Fred either didn't have the exact solution or was unable to verbalize it completely … my failure to not know which. He agreed, though, that the just-verbalized solution would work.
We worked together, rather quickly and perhaps too quickly, through the other two problems and it was bordering on time to let them go. "Just a moment," I said. "I have something more." I got out three envelopes with carefully lettered names on them, each envelope containing a hand-written note.
"Oh, cards," one of them said, excitedly ( though maybe I imagined that part ).
I gave each his card, told them that, although we had had a few rough patches, I very much enjoyed working with them this year, and it was time for them to go. They saluted and said thanks; my SPIFF pal hugged me, saying "Maybe I'll see you in a store around here."
Doubting it, as I do not live in the immediate vicinity, I said, "Yes, maybe. I'd be with my wife and I'd like her to meet you."
The other two warmly shook my hand and they all returned to the classroom.
The teacher came to shake my hand and say thanks. "Did the boys keep their Continental Math League booklets?" I had not given them the booklets.
"No," I replied, "I kept them between our meetings and had not gotten them out this time."
"I think they might like that," he said.
Before I finished my reply, it seemed, the three boys were swarming in search of their booklets. I gave them to them, and they returned to the classroom. I noted they left behind all the sheets I had so carefully prepared with today's problems and solutions.
I gathered that material up, put away the white board and its markers and eraser, and slowly left the area. Melancholy accompanied me to the office. It was with me still as I arrived home.
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