Third and Nine To Go … How I Learned More Than My Third Grade Students

For Amy and Deborah and anyone else who was there.

Third and Nine to Go …
How I Learned More Than My Third Grade Students

I fired math questions at them first thing in the morning while strolling around the room, writing problems on blackboards at the front and back of the room.

I walked  between the aisles looking into their eyes to see if they were paying attention.  If any kid had that dazed look on their face I pestered them with questions until they were awake and alert.

I gave them the freedom to cut up National Geographic, Sports Illustrated Life and whatever other magazines I could find, paste the pictures together in any sequence they chose (You could find school paste everywhere; on the floor, their desks, their fingers and faces, their hair and of course, in their mouths. A lot of kids out there are addicted to white school paste) then, make up stories to go with the pictures.

If they finished their work before nine thirty, they could get a book and read.  Or, they could work on their stories before going out to recess.

You should have seen the excited looks on their faces when they realized they could work on those stories for fifteen or twenty minutes before recess.

Every day after lunch I read them books like Huckleberry Finn, the Wind In the Willows, a couple of the “Catfish Bend” stories and other stories every kid should be familiar with.

Third and Nine; The Rise And Fall Of Civilization

One day I watched my third grade graders play from behind glass windows running the length of my classroom.

Before recess was even half over several boys had built a snowman.

Afterward, searching for something to do, they pelted the girls with snowballs.

The girls screamed and ran away delighted by the sudden attention.

One girl fell face first into the snow.

I heard peals of laughter from the boys who pointed at her cackling loudly.

Snow covered her face.  A moist black hole appeared where she spit the snow away.  Her eyes appeared through two black dots at the top of her face.

Briefly, she appeared as a live snow-girl.

One boy rolled in the snow laughing.

The girls stood off to the side, mittens covering their mouths hiding their smiles.

With little time left before the bell, I watched four boys demolish the snowman.

After watching the dramas unfold it seemed a couple of life’s secrets were revealed.

Within 15 minutes I had witnessed a model for thousands years of warfare; construction, destruction, the death of innocents. Even the symbolism of rape.

“Maybe warfare is part of who we are,” I thought. “Will we ever rise above it?” I wondered, moving my head side to side.

Then I thought, maybe by the end of the year, I’ll learn more about life from my students than they will learn, from me.

Or at least it’ll be an equal exchange.


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