Friday, November 17, 2006

Nature vs. Nurture

Or, "Why I Still, Sometimes, Count On My Fingers."

When I was in fifth grade (or fourth, or's all a bit blurry at this age), my Math teacher had an epiphany. She would divide the students into two sections: Section 1 would be students who did well in Math, and who could get through new concepts pretty easily. Section 2 was for the kids who struggled with Math, the kids who needed extra attention.

The section that was probably called Remedial in the teacher's handbook, and something less polite in the break room during lunch hour.

We had a pretty large classroom, so the teacher decided she would separate the two sections by placing us at opposite ends of the same room. We students stood in a long line at the back of the room until our names were called out; then, after she announced which section we were in, we were instructed to go to that particular part of the room.

Teacher: "Susan...Section 1."
Teacher: "Flavia...Section 2."
Teacher: "Marc...

That second seemed to last for hours. When I think of it today, I still experience it in slow-motion. My heart was thumping, I felt like I was spinning and I silently begged:
"Please say one. Please say one. Please say one. Please say one..."

Teacher: ...Section 2"

To this day, I'm insecure about my ability to do Math. So insecure that I feel like I'm going to panic if I'm forced, for some reason, to perform it in public. Damn that teacher and her great idea.

Why do we do that to kids? Kids should be encouraged, and inspired. Taught to be resilient. Made to feel hopeful.

I'm venting, I suppose, because of a small event that occurred at lunch today. As I was walking back to my office from Comic World (go ahead and smirk...Whatever, hater) I passed a group of eight kids, each around the age of 3. The group was obviously on an outing from a pre-school, because the kids were all holding that knotted rope designed to (1) keep the kids safe, and (2) teach the kids they have to conform.

While still a block away, a teacher's voice caught my ear. She was loud, and her voice was grating. (I remember thinking I was glad she was not teaching my kids.) When I was just a few feet away I heard crying, and looked down to see one of the smallest little boys, very upset. He seemed scared of the traffic, and was really crying. Hard. Our eyes met as I continued to walk, and I smiled. I felt bad for him.

Suddenly, the teacher said:

"People are looking at you because you're crying! You have to stop. People are going to stare at you."

Jeez...I hope that kid will be good at Math


Kelly said...

I think you should have found out what daycare/preschool they were from and call to complain. Obviously that woman doesn't need to be in that profession!

Anonymous said...

Film Geek,
I'm sure the teacher only put you on Side 2, because he knew you would be of great benefit to the kids on that side.
Is your glass half empty or half full?

The Film Geek said...

Half empty or half full? Uh...can I use a calculator?

The Film Geek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Film Geek said...

Actually, Anonymous, you've missed the point of my story.

I was trying to illustrate my contention that even when we adults try to do good things (such as teach kids Math, or help a young child stop crying) we can harm them emotionally or psychologically (especially over a long period of time)if we are not thoughtful in how we do it.

I'm not saying that a simple comment or action that occurs once in a child's life will scar that child (although that can and does happen), I'm saying that teachers and parents sometimes use tactics thoughtlessly, and repeated use of those tactics can shape a kid's personality and ability.

I'm just sayin'...

Barbie Girl said...

I always struggled with math. When I was in the 4th grade I was learning long division and it was horrible. To this day if you say long division around my family they groan.

My mom went to talk to my teacher about how they could help me learn it better because I ended up "in tears" every time we tried to do my homework.

I vividly recall Mrs. Jones telling the whole class a day or two later that "I cried" because I couldn't do division.

Now honestly, I don't know that she was even saying it to be mean, I probably wasn't really paying attention (hehehe) but I can remember snickers coming from the other kids around the room. I will never forget that moment as long as I live.

Stupid bitch.

Route 75 said...

I swear to God if I ever heard someone talking to one of my kids that way then I would fight her like she was a man.

Nobody messes with my kids.


On another note, I remember having a hard time in second grade putting words into alphabetical order. I just couldn't get it, and started to cry.

I didn't get any help 'cause Sister Rosalie beat the hell out of me with a 1/2 thick, glass ruler she called the "Rainbow Paddle."

I heard from someone a couple of years ago that she was really sick.

....I hope she's dead now.