The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Education » math-teach

Notice: We are no longer accepting new posts, but the forums will continue to be readable.

Replies: 0  

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List  
Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Posted: Feb 25, 2014 4:33 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply

From Momastery. See

A few weeks ago, I went into Chase's class for tutoring.

I'd emailed Chase's teacher one evening and said, "Chase keeps
telling me that this stuff you're sending home is math - but I'm not
sure I believe him. Help, please." She emailed right back and said,
"No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime." And I said,
"No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me." And that's how I ended up
standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth grade classroom staring at
rows of shapes that Chase's teacher kept referring to as "numbers."

I stood a little shakily at the chalkboard while Chase's teacher sat
behind me, perched on her desk, using a soothing voice to try to help
me understand the "new way we teach long division." Luckily for me,
I didn't have to unlearn much because I never really understood the
"old way we taught long division." It took me a solid hour to
complete one problem, but l could tell that Chase's teacher liked me
anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot
in common.

Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching
children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed
that subjects like math and reading are the least important things
that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little
hearts to become contributors to a larger community - and we
discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of
individuals who are Kind and Brave above all.

And then she told me this.

Every Friday afternoon Chase's teacher asks her students to take out
a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom
they'd like to sit the following week. The children know that these
requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to
nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional
classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home,
Chase's teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front
of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who doesn't even know who to request?

Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?

Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase's teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or
"exceptional citizens." Chase's teacher is looking for lonely
children. She's looking for children who are struggling to connect
with other children. She's identifying the little ones who are
falling through the cracks of the class's social life. She is
discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she's
pinning down- right away- who's being bullied and who is doing the

As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children - I think that this
is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered.
It's like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface
of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold
- - the gold being those little ones who need a little help - who need
adults to step in and TEACH them how to make friends, how to ask
others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts with
others. And it's a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that
bullying usually happens outside of her eyeshot - and that often
kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But as she said -
the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.

As Chase's teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea - I stared
at her with my mouth hanging open. "How long have you been using this
system?" I said.

Ever since Columbine, she said. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine.

Good Lord.

This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that ALL VIOLENCE
BEGINS WITH DISCONNECTION. All outward violence begins as inner
loneliness. She watched that tragedy KNOWING that children who aren't
being noticed will eventually resort to being noticed by any means

And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often, and
with the world within her reach. What Chase's teacher is doing when
she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with
shaky 11 year old hands - is SAVING LIVES. I am convinced of it. She
is saving lives.

And what this mathematician has learned while using this system is
something she really already knew: that everything - even love, even
belonging - has a pattern to it. And she finds those patterns through
those lists - she breaks the codes of disconnection. And then she
gets lonely kids the help they need. It's math to her. It's MATH.

All is love- even math. Amazing.

Chase's teacher retires this year - after decades of saving lives.
What a way to spend a life: looking for patterns of love and
loneliness. Stepping in, every single day- and altering the
trajectory of our world.

TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the
disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we've got for a
better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is
watching- it's our best hope.

Teachers- you've got a million parents behind you whispering
together: "We don't care about the damn standardized tests. We only
care that you teach our children to be Brave and Kind. And we thank
you. We thank you for saving lives."

Love - All of Us

- --
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2018. All Rights Reserved.