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High five

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I have a 14-year-old student with mental retardation who is learning to count by 5’s. Despite all of our practice and strategies, he hasn’t been able to get past 15 for the past month. Some days, it feels like a lost cause. Some days I think he’s not trying. And today, I am just tired.

But as we sat down for math class today, he called me over for “a surprise.” He counted a handful of nickels on his own all the way to 45 cents. I was floored.

And then he looks at my shyly and says, “Ms. Shyu, I’ve been practicing. I practiced all weekend when I was herding sheep. I wouldn’t stop counting until I got all the sheep in. I didn’t let myself stop practicing until I got home with the sheep.”

All I could do then, was give him a high-five.

3 Comments

I call those the "breakthrough moments." Learning, like life, does not happen in a straight line.

I am a fan of Stephen Jay Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" theory of evolution, which sees many years of stable plateaus where things are changing under the surface followed by a sudden jump to the next level. While I would not equate the long-term issues related to evolution to this one boy's efforts, it is clear that what appeared to be a sudden breakthrough to you was actually the result of a lot of change under the surface as he did his practice tables while doing his shepherding.

Keep up the great work!

I just had to write and say this passage was inspiring even for a veteran teacher. A great reminder of why we chose to teach. Keep journaling!

Love you jess...and they ARE lucky to have you... and you them, its awesome to read... keep up the good work and come (or to NY) home soon if you can, we miss you!

i just remembered this picture i used to have in my old room that says "the smallest good deed is greater than the grandest good intention," i dont know what that has to do with anything but, cheers!

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