Month: September 2015

Does That Point Work?

In Geometry class, Dylan’s teacher was using students – human-sized objects – to demonstrate a concept.

He asked two students to stand on opposite sides of the room. They did.

“This,” said Mr. F, “is an imaginary straight line. The distance between these two students is a line. Can everyone imagine that?”

“Yes,” the class said in unison.

“Okay,” Mr. F said. “I need someone to come up here and show me a space that is equal distance from each of the two end points.”

He called on a student to be the third “point.” The third student walked to the center of the classroom – directly between the first two students, and basically on the line itself. He stood almost exactly equal distance between the first two “points.”

“Does that point work?” Mr. F asked.

“Yes,” the class agreed.

“Great,” said Mr. F. “Who else wants to try?” No one answered, because the classroom is full of teenagers who only reluctantly volunteer to do anything.

So Mr. F called on a fourth student, who reluctantly volunteered. But he was confused. He was sure there was only one midway spot, and someone was already standing in that spot. So the fourth student got as close as humanly possible to the third student, and just stood there next to him – almost midway between the first two “points.”

“Does that point work?” Mr. F asked.

“Yes,” the class agreed.

“No,” argued Dylan, loud enough for the whole class to hear him.

All heads turned and looked at Dylan.

“Why not?” asked Mr. F.

“Because he’s not really the same distance from both points,” Dylan said.

“Do you want to show us a more accurate point?” asked Mr. F.

“Okay,” Dylan said.

Dylan got up from his desk, looked around, then went to the back of the room and stood there. He was nowhere near the original line – and yet, he was equal distance from both of the first two “points.” In fact, Dylan probably created a pretty nice triangle.

Much of the class was visibly confused. So Dylan stayed standing as the teacher explained that, indeed, Dylan was equal distance from both points.

He just wasn’t standing on the original line. Dylan was, instead, thinking completely out of the box.

I love that he stood up for what he knew to be right. I love that he went against the entire class to prove it. I love that after two years of struggling with algebra, he seems to be perfectly suited to geometry. But most of all, I love that his brilliance just shines sometimes.

Shane is a Very Attentive Student.

I met Shane halfway between home and the bus stop, because I couldn’t wait to hear about his first day of school.

“How was it?” I asked excitedly.

“It was good,” he said – his standard answer.

“How were your classes?”

“Good. Except for Health. We basically just sat there and did nothing for the whole seventh period.”

“You did? Why?”

“Because there was nothing for us to do. We were just sitting there with all the kids from P.E. in the gym and they were talking to us about P.E. but I have Health so I didn’t have to do anything.”

“So what did you learn about P.E.?”

“Nothing,” he said. “I have Health. And the teachers just stopped talking after a few minutes, so we all just sat there and looked at each other.”

The more I listened to this line of conversation, the more I believed that Shane was supposed to listen to the teacher. But if the teacher wasn’t talking, perhaps there was something else Shane was supposed to do.

Shane is a very attentive student. Even if he’s not looking at the teacher, he soaks in every word. He hears everything. I think it’s from years of vision processing disorder, when he over-developed his audial sense. So if he said he was supposed to just sit there, he was probably supposed to just sit there.

Or maybe he actually missed some vital instruction. We may never know.

The next morning, Shane announced that he was only late to one class because he couldn’t find it.

“That’s great!” I said.

“And I wasn’t late to Health, except there was a note on the door that we were supposed to meet in the gym.”

“Are you going to the Health room today, or the gym?”

“I think we have to go back to the gym.”

“So you can sit there and look at each other again?”

“I guess so,” Shane said.

And sure enough, that’s what they did the next day, too. I’m not sure Shane is ready for plain, boring middle school. But he seems content – and that is such a relief, and such a wonderful thing, that I’m not going to worry for a second.


Do You Have a Paraeducator?

I could hardly wait to hear about Dylan’s first day of school. As usual, he was far too exhausted from focusing all day to be bothered with my curiosity.

“Tell me about your classes,” I begged.

“Well my Spanish teacher really liked me. She said I was awesome, like, twice. And the English teacher is really good and I did really well in there. And yeah, all the classes were good.”

“Do you have any homework?” I asked, probably too soon.


“Is it in your calendar app?”

“No,” he said.

“Put it in your app,” I reminded him.

“Well I can remember it.”

“I want you to go to college, Dylan,” I said. “Unless you want a whole bunch of zeros and a job at McDonald’s instead, put everything in your calendar app.”

He picked up his phone and poked at it.

“Do you have math homework?” I asked. They always have math homework.

“No,” he said.

“No? Okay. Did you have a paraeducator?” Other than a word processor, the paraeducator in math is the only real accommodations that Dylan needs, according to his IEP.


“You didn’t have a paraeducator?”

“Why would I need a paraeducator?” he asked, utterly oblivious. “I’m not a special needs kid or anything.”

If it hadn’t been so scary, I would have thought he was kidding.

“You’ve had trouble focusing in math since you were born,” I told him. Then I went into a four-minute lecture about the new state law, math requirements for graduation and what colleges require.

“What does this have to do with whether or not I need a paraeducator?” he groaned.

“You need to pass Geometry!” I said.

“I don’t need a paraeducator just to help me focus,” he spat. “You haven’t sent me to public school with medication in, like, years!”

I didn’t say, Gee, that’s because you haven’t been in public school for a year, and we couldn’t find a suitable medication that worked.

Instead I calmly went to my computer and emailed his case manager to check on the availability of a paraeducator for 7th period Geometry. And he doesn’t. But that’s a story for another day.

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