As the school year approached its end, I approached the end of my first year of being a DARTs Learning Buddy. ( For background, see Me, a Reading Buddy?, Becoming a Reading Buddy, My First Learning Buddy Assignment and My First Day with my Students. ) I had developed a real affection for my three students and I was fairly sure they had similar feelings for me. The big question, then, "What are we going to do on the last day?" I am rather old-school, all about rules and such, and, left to my own devices I most likely would have anticipated the last day being like any other day ( in terms of activity ), but more emotional.
Several people in my life spoke about this, but in a way I would say was "sideways," suggesting I might want to do something out of the ordinary, but only suggesting and being vague. A grad student, Irene, who had been observing me with the boys and whom I was planning on having there on the last day asked, "So maybe you would like to be alone with your students on that last day … No? If so, that would not hurt my feelings and I'll be done as of this week." Bless her heart.
Of course I had wanted to make the last day memorable … that thought had been rolling around, rather unformed, for some time. It included giving a good-bye card to each of the boys but it bounced against my "of course we'll have our regular math agenda" instinct. Irene's suggestion focused the question for me … and I took her up on that offer, thanking her for both focusing the question and being willing to leave me alone with my students that day. All that was left, then, was the hard part: figuring out what to do.
As is my custom, I took these ruminations to prayer and was rewarded with an inspiration. I was reminded of three puzzles ( logic, math, trick ) that I could take to the last class and somehow work with my students. These puzzles are old ones, possibly over the head of my kids, but, I thought, it would still be fun to work on them with my kids. As a group, the puzzles were only loosely related to what we had been doing, but it did work the brain and I thought it would be all right for our last time together.
"Don't you think you should clear that with your teacher?" my wife asked me.
"No, I'm sure I'm on solid ground." As sure as that answer sounded, her question worked on me.
I found each of the puzzles on the internet, sparing my having to create the text to set up the problem. I sent an email to the teacher, including the URL of each puzzle, so he could check them out if he wished. I told him my plan and asked both if that conflicted with his plans for that time and if he had any other thoughts. He responded very quickly, "This sounds great. See you Wednesday!"
I was more relieved than I want to admit that he thought this a good idea. My plan evolved: I would make three copies of each puzzle, three copies of each solution, give each boy one of the puzzles and have him work on it, alone for a while. Then I'd allow them to work with each other, freestyle, on the puzzle of whichever boy was able to get the most help. Then I'd work with them. We'd talk about the puzzle and its meaning. And its solution. Eventually I'd give all boys all three puzzles and their solutions. I looked forward to the class.
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