What I'm about to tell you is true. It is almost unbelievable. When I tell others, the tears stream from all eyes. These are not tears of sorrow, empathy or pain. They are tears of hysterical, uncontrollable laughter. Yes...it is laughter at my own expense. One would think that laughter such as this might be too hard to face....like I said, it is unbelievable. Embarrassing? YES! So funny, I LOVE to tell this story.
To truly understand this story you need to put yourself into the scene. If you are a teacher or speaker, imagine that you are teaching 30 VERY bright 13 year-olds in an inner-city middle school. The kids are rough. The demographics are not important, but the age is. These kids understand a lot more than we would want them to know. If you are neither a teacher nor speaker, go back in time to a relatively difficult math class; a class in which the teacher is firm, sarcastic, but loved by the kids. Finally....imagine that teacher is pregnant!
The time is approximately 4 years ago. The place is my middle school classroom. The audience, about 30 boys and girls 12 to 13 years of age. The topic, pre-algebra...to be more specific, geometry...even more specific, congruence.
Now in order to prevent the brain-strain-pain that is hitting some of you (I won't mention any names, but I know who some of you are) I will not get technical and assume you know the term. Granted, you have all heard it, but for some of you, school was a LONG time ago and even if you remember hearing it, you might not have understood it. All that to say that the definition of congruence is basically same size, same shape.
I was always a fun teacher. I did cartwheels up and down the halls, walked across desktops and drew zeros around my room (on the walls in chalk). I allowed candy days as rewards and held lessons in various parts of the school. I was (and am, thanks to my newly renewed license) a good teacher. The parents liked me (most of them, anyway) because I was firm and I pushed rote memorization of multiplication tables. The kids loved me because I brought my life into the classroom. They knew my children. They knew my husband. They knew I could get mad at them for doing the stupid. They knew that I loved them from the bottom of my heart.
Knowing what a good teacher does, I was always on the lookout for good examples. These examples needed to reach out to the children to help them attach to the core of the lesson. It's not enough to read from a book, copy it on paper and hear it from the teacher. A good teacher reaches for ideas and presents concepts in multiple ways in order that he or she may reach every type of learner.
SO, here I am in pre-algebra. This class is an Honor's class for 7th grade. These kids are smart, but some, like me, have a hang-up in geometry. Knowing this, I really worked (and still do) when presenting concepts dealing with geometry. I didn't want to lose anyone. We were learning about congruence. We discussed, made models, measured things...to no avail. I knew I had to cover it again after seeing their first test.
I have them repeat after me over and over again.
me - "What is congruence?"
them -"Same size same shape." (this is done in monotone...I was quite pleasant and chipper.)
me - "What is congruence?"
them - "Same size same shape."
me - "WHAT IS CONGRUENCE?"
them - "SAME SIZE SAME SHAPE!"
Finally, I reach for one more example. I say, "OK, you know when you show up at school wearing the same shirt as your best friend? You are Twinkies." (y'all remember using that term? They understood. So then I say, "For example Brian (NOT his real name, but it was a boy) gets up one day, looks in the mirror and sees his Twinkie."
There it was...it just hung there (no pun intended) in the silence. Nobody moved. Nobody even breathed. They all waited for the reaction of the speaker.
Realizing immediately the faux pas, I tried to recover. I couldn't pretend it didn't happen. I had already turned various shades of red. I couldn't brush it off, because DUDE...the teacher just referred to a....YOU KNOW! So I said, "Hmmmm. THAT didn't sound real good, did it?"
The class burst out laughing. There was a sense of relief as the students were finally able to release the toxins and take in fresh air.
After owning up to this horrible event to some co-teachers, I drove home and chalked it up to an interesting, but successful, lesson taught by one, but learned by all. The next day, I swallowed my pride, walked into my classroom only to find some Twinkies on my desk.
That class, to this day, contained my favorite students of all time. I love them all.