Sunday, February 22, 2015


I’ve read where the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Fine, I guess that would be an unorthodoxed way to go about things. But the person who is doing that does not understand the cycle he has brought onto himself and does not realize he is going crazy. I would submit that the definition of insanity is teaching 4th graders how to divide with remainders. Because as a classroom teacher experiencing that calamity, I felt the harsh punch of insanity hit me in the esophagus. Because the esophagus is where insanity starts. So here is my story of almost becoming crazy and the small people who were driving the train.

It all started simple enough. We had been working on division and the kids were loving it. We were able to add more digits to the dividend. They enjoyed the challenge of larger numbers and were relishing the fact that they were doing hard math and succeeding. Rainbows began forming in the classroom. Students were sharing high fives with unicorns and I looked on, gratified that knowledge had indeed been transferred. Then one day I introduced them to remainders and they all lost their collective shit. 

It wasn’t a slow, gradual loss of all things rational. The explanation of remainders took away all normal functions immediately and they became catatonic lumps of carbon and bacteria sitting in their chairs. Their heads, suddenly too heavy for their neck and shoulders to support, rested on their desks. Their breathing became labored and I could hear sounds coming from their mouths. Not words as much as low moans and whimpering. And the learning stopped. 

My usual approach to instruction is to repeat: louder and slower. This did not work. They only seemed to withdraw more. When I attempted to refine the instruction, (speaking increasingly louder and slower) they still didn’t respond. I was all out of options. I had used all of my tools from my teaching tool kit; which apparently consisted of a megaphone. They didn’t even respond with the usual joy at the sight of my forehead-vein protruding. This was going to take a while.
Whatever. I'll just fart out of my mouth for a while.

We eventually got through this, but it took a lot of pushing, pulling, crying, resisting, scratching, and scowling. It was as if this idea was too complex to accept. But we made it. We used manipulatives, candy, videos, and farting. Everything involves farting with kids.  There was no cheering or rainbows made out of balloons, but the silent sigh of accomplishment when we moved on to the next chapter: sequencing. 

They were relieved because sequencing is not as abstract to them. They can visualize increasing or decreasing their candy intake incrementally. This made sense to them, so once again heads were lifted off the desks. Pencils stayed in their hands and their papers were smooth, not crinkly from being wadded up a few times. They were getting this. Math was fun again and their teacher was able to take his hands out of his pockets, no longer fearful of uncontrollably smashing things. 
This is evil!!!!

Then we began sequencing with both increases and decreases in the same series…..crap.