Thursday, September 22, 2011

30 Days of Joy...............Day 7

The Joy du Jour is...

A birdhouse.

Half-Pint is a young girl whom I have taught for four years, now going on five.  She's a flibbertigibbet, a butterfly, a "how-do-you-solve-a problem-like-Maria" type of girl. In looks, she's a tiny blonde Laura from  the Little House on the Prairie show, hence the nickname.

When I first started teaching Half-Pint, my weaknesses as a teacher were brought to the forefront. She rarely appeared to be listening when I taught. She frequently had her hands in her desk, fiddling with something--usually paper.  At the end of the day, there were colorful pieces of hand-torn confetti littering her workspace and the floor. Give her a piece of paper and it was sure to be torn in little pieces by the end of the day. I was at a loss as to how to get her to "pay attention."

That was fourth grade. She is now entering eighth grade and thank goodness, I have learned a few things as a teacher. Most of my lessons were those taught to me by Half-Pint.

* I have learned that just because hands are in motion, that doesn't mean the child is not paying attention. I learned that when I would ask Half-Pint to repeat back to me the concept I had just taught, she could regurgitate it, almost verbatim, even though her hands were busy creating an elaborate piece of origami.

* I have learned that even though I am not one of them, some people learn better when they are in motion. Half-Pint taught me that if I want superior performance, I had better make sure she has something to create while I am teaching.

* She taught me that grades really have nothing to do with intelligence. Her report cards have never been stellar, but it's not because she's inferior. It's because she has learned at a young age, what matters to her in life. Why spend time studying for a test, while her true loves (reading and creating with paper) stand idly by? She already knows what many life coaches tell their clients--forsake what doesn't matter and do what you love to do.

* She taught me that struggling students struggle not always because they are poor students, but sometimes because we are poor teachers. Half-Pint failed spelling test after spelling test. It wasn't until she was at the board one day and spelled an extremely difficult spelling word correctly, that I finally saw the light. When I praised her for spelling that difficult word, she replied, "Oh that one was easy."   I asked, "Why was the difficult word easy for you and the shorter words were more difficult?"  Her answer stunned me.  "Because the longer word had more music in it."  She explained that when she tries to remember her spelling words, if the letters make a rhythm, the word is easier for her to remember. We all know how to spell Mississippi, right? It's the same concept--it's all about the music.

Over the years, Half-Pint has presented me with origami animals, elaborate cards held shut by intricately folded flowers, and envelopes and paper boxes crafted by her nimble fingers and filled with minute paper shapes that she painstakingly cut.

Today, she surprised me once again. After class, she gave me a birdhouse that she assembled and painted. After I oohed and aahed over the gift and gave her a hug, she showed me something that I had missed. Inside the house was a bedroom scene that she had created, complete with paper bed, table and mirror on the wall. To think that she spent all that time creating something beautiful for me, was a source of joy today.  She's been my teacher as much as I have been hers.

The bedroom scene. I know this is hard to see, but it was difficult to try to
stick my camera lens through the bird hole.



  1. This might show up twice because I thought I published it but maybe I didn't. Randi, this is an exceptional piece that should be published further. Truly. May I send it to Ned and Marshall Cook? On the other hand, you might want to try some "big" publications who could want First Rights.

  2. Auntie M: Thank you so much for the inspiring comment. I don't mind at all if you send it to Ned or Marshall. Would you explain again what First Rights mean? Does that conflict with it already having been published on my blog?

  3. First Rights means it has not been previously published. I doubt the blog would count, but each publication is different. It's time consuming to send out articles and find the right publication. I think both Ned and Marshall would use it. If you'd like, I'd give them a heads up before you submit it.

  4. Love this post!
    ~ signed,
    Mom of at least one wiggly homework doer.

  5. Love this line: forsake what doesn't matter and do what you love to do.

    This is a post to remember, Randi.

    Love all these lessons you learned from Half-Pint. She's teaching us about life in many ways too through your sharing in this post.

  6. Auntie M: Thanks for the info. Yes, that would be wonderful if you would be willing to do that for me.

    Jill: I have learned not to be so picky that a child be still while he or she is learning. I need to have things quiet and calm, but not everyone is that way. I shudder to think what school must have been like for kids before "learning styles" were discovered.

    Kelly: You are a sweetheart! Thanks for the nice words. Half-Pint is still teaching me. I hope she doesn't ever get tired of it. :)


You won't be paid for it, but at least you'll know that you have contributed intelligence to the universe...

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