Thursday, October 18, 2007

All Right, But Done the Wrong Way

“Who do you think your teacher is, me or your mother?” the math teacher yelled at my sixth grader today.

I somehow doubt she would have tread those waters had she known my daughter had been homeschooled through fourth grade.

The skill being taught was the addition and subtraction of negative and positive integers. The multi-step method taught yesterday was not abundantly clear to my daughter, and I could see she did not know what she was doing. I asked her why she was circling all the signs and what she thought she was supposed to do with them. She did not know.

“Look here,” I said, erasing her little circles.

“But the teacher said - ”

“Never mind that. You don’t remember what she said, and I don’t know what she said, so I’ll make it simple for you.”

I circled the two negatives and put a positive sign over them. “Two negatives make a positive, just like in grammar. Now add.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

The light bulb had gone on, and within five minutes the worksheet was done.

She got them all right, but that was not good enough. She had not followed directions.

I could definitely see from where the teacher was coming. However, if she had not explained the process in an understandable way, what was wrong with coming at it from a different direction? And once the work gets set home, isn’t that my territory?

I obviously was a bit miffed at my daughter’s being chastised for listening to her mother. But for me to say anything would be to make it worse. So I’ll let it be – and hope this doesn’t repeat itself too many more times in the next three years.

I seem to remember having a similar problem with my high school teacher, coming to a solution through a thought-process in reverse from what she had taught. But she knew there was “more than one way to skin a cat” (no offense meant to cat lovers here – it was a saying used often in my childhood), and as long as I could show my work there would be no points taken off.

My eldest daughter’s mind works so much like mine – we often complete each other’s sentences. Teaching her math was always a breeze. If I explained the numbers the way they sorted themselves out in my mind, she would catch on quite quickly. Teachers’ editions never worked for me – just give me the problem and let’s solve it.

Not so with Salvation. Jesus was quite clear that there was only One Way to the Father. He may speak in mysteries but they have a mathematical, logical undercurrent.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?’
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.’”
John 14:5-7

Painting above:
"The Professor is Out"
by Luigi Bechi

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