So. We are doing fractions, William and I, and he's struggling. I try to go through the lesson ahead of time, so I know exactly what he's dealing with, because one thing that I know for a fact is that William will not learn a thing scrolling through 15 pages of discussion about how to make an equivalent fraction or how to simplify a fraction. I had made circles on poster board and cut them into halves, quarters, sixths and eighths to give him a visual of equivalent fractions, as in 1/2 is the same as 2/4 which is the same as 3/6, which is the same as 4/8. There were strips of paper to prove the same thing. The physical concept was understood. I went on to show him how he could do that mathematically without cutting a circle into fractions every time.
He was making equivalent fractions with very little problem.
Now if we would have stopped there, it would have been good, but lo...there was simplifying fractions to contend with.
We got the lesson summed up in two statements: The golden rule of fractions: 'thou shalt do unto the numerator what one does unto the denominator'. The other rule is when you see 'simplify' you are always dividing.
We got it and he had 4 worksheets to turn in.
I handed them to him and stepped back to see him go. He said, "I have to watch this lesson."
Me: "No. You don't. We've already done the lesson."
William: "I HAVE to watch the video. My teacher said if we didn't understand what she said, we had to watch the video."
Me: "No. You don't William. Did you understand what I said?"
William: "Yes. But you're not the teacher and so I have to watch the video. She can tell when we watched the videos."
Truth. In the other classes, part of the credit is gained from watching the videos and then answering the questions. I resolved the situation by e-mailing the teacher, explaining that like me, William learned by doing, and so the videos were not helpful. I asked her if teaching him the math concepts could be substituted for watching the videos in his math class.
Meanwhile, William was going through the video about fractions. By the time he was at the end of it, he was quite sure that I had taught him wrong. I handed him the worksheets and he could not solve them. It didn't really matter, because he had another zoom class.
He was upset at me, and let's be perfectly honest. I was more than a little frustrated with the boy and his focused 'but grandma, the teacher said...'
He doesn't want to be in trouble.
But we were both upset about math. He was going to have to stay later to get that done at the end of the day. It was the last day of school before the holiday. The last thing he wanted to do was to stay late. The last thing I wanted to do was teach that lesson over again.
The phone rang and it was his teacher. She assured me that I was absolutely right. What mattered to her was that he could do the work. He did not have to watch the videos if he understood those lessons.
I commented that I didn't know many kids who would be able to watch a video and walk away understanding the process, that really for William, they were a waste of time. I explained how we were doing the science videos.
She said, "Oh, you're such a good little teacher."
I stuttered a little.
Then she said it: "I hate those videos and most of the teachers do. William is very lucky to have someone who knows how to teach him. We have a lot of kids who have no one. They're on their own. We hate the videos, but for some kids, that's all they've got."
That afternoon, at the end of the day in a zoom meeting, the students were all restless and ready for the day to be done, for Christmas to begin. The teacher said, "Listen, you guys, almost all of you have assignments that have not been turned in." And she began listing them by name.
A little sick to my stomach, William and I listened for his name. Finally, it came up, and the teacher said, "William? You do not have anything past due. Good job." Both William and I did a fist bump in great relief.
She went on. "Zach? You have not turned in one assignment since this all started." I recognized the name. The kid is also almost always late for the zoom meetings. It is frustrating for teachers, I am sure. "Zach? What time is it? What time are you supposed to be here? This is just like class. I expect you to be here on time! I've already begun teaching the lesson and you've missed a big part of it."
Now the teacher was saying, "Do you understand this Zach? You've got to turn these assignments in!"
And a boy answered. He was nearly in tears. "I don't know how to do it. I don't even know how to find the gradebook." My heart broke watching this exchange, and I thought of what William's teacher had said earlier: "We have a lot of kids who have no one."
I was looking at one.
Some of our kids are paying a terrible price in these awful days.