Bested by a Fifth Grader

18 05 2012

      The topic was a basic one:  write an essay about your favorite elementary school memory.  This was the end-of-the-year essay, the one that follows the students to middle school in their cumulative folders.  I got many stories about our field trip to the beach or our class bonfire, wildly popular activities this year.   The students did a good job on the topic, remembering to start with a “hook,” use sensory details…all the parts of good writing that I have tried to teach this year.  There were several essays that even got a perfect score.  Yet there was one composition that literally took my breath away.  Although there were some errors in spelling and punctuation that kept this essay from getting a perfect score, it was without a doubt the best-written essay that I have read all year and possibly the best student essay I have ever read.  Had I been given the topic, I doubt I could have written one as good as this one.

     And so, with her mother’s permission, I have carefully copied Shavonne’s story below, mistakes and all.  And yes, spelling and other conventions are important, but they are easily fixed.  Shavonne’s voice comes shining through in this essay, something that is next to impossible to teach.  Do I mind being bested by a fifth grader?  Not at all.  That is, after all, a teacher’s dream.

Conquering the Divisor

by Shavonne, age 11

            Have you ever had a fear that something bad was about to happen, but you just didn’t know what?  I have.  The day I broke [my] hand, I had been having that feeling all day.  But, sometimes that feeling is able to determine us.  That’s just what happened to me, in my favorite elementary school memory.

I had never been a good student in kindergarden or first grade.  Espically in math.  While other kids learned to subtract, I was still learning how to count.  While others learned to multiply only then did I learn to subtract.  I just didn’t understand it.  Numbers to me were like learning rocket science.  To make matters worse I still couldn’t count pass fifty.  The day that my teacher announced that we were doing divison I began to regret growing up.

I struggled with dividing for the next few weeks.  It all seemed like big blobs of symbols + letters to me:  I[t] was like tutors, extra help, nor my mom’s support could make it better.  I began to feel dumb.

Until one day I realized that maybe it wasn’t my teachers fault.  But that maybe it was mine.  Only then was I determined to conquer the divisor.

I started staying after school with my teacher, Actually listening to my tutor, and following my mom’s advice.  After one week I had gone from a Learning Loser to a Math Maniac.  My grades had really improved.  I felt like I could master anything, even the divisor.  When it was time to take our final test on that chapter, I was ready.  I read every test question slowly + carefully.  It wasn’t very surprising when I made an excellent 100.

The reason why that is my favorite elementary school memory because that was when I first reached my fullest potential.  I hadn’t realized it yet but I had gotten my first spark of determination.  Although now I still struggle with math.  Whenever I am taking a test I remember my incounter with the divisor!