Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Try and I Try (Part 1)

A hundred years ago when I was a junior and senior year in college, I was given the opportunity to take part in a Special Projects class that allowed me to work at least three hours a week in the public schools in the town that the college was located in.  This is where this interaction took place.

I was assigned to work with a wonderful Special Ed teacher in an elementary building approximately one block off campus.  Since the location was so close we agreed that I would come three days a week and would be given the opportunity to work with the same student each day.

I was assigned a second grader who was a wonderful, happy young man who enjoyed school immensely.

One day he came in and was very "frazzled".  He began walking back and forth in front of me speaking in a louder than normal voice moving his arms up and down visually showing his level of frustration.

The story he told me goes like this:

I didn't get to go to recess today again.  I had to get ORGANIZED.

Everyday my teacher tells me I gotta get organized.  I get organized and she comes back and says "Timmy, you gotta get organized." 

Then she goes through my desk and notebook and says,  "You gotta get organized!"

I get organized and the next day she says, "TIMMY YOU GOTTA GET ORGANIZED".

I twy and I twy and she keeps telling me, "Timmy you gotta get organized!"

He then walked up to my face, lifts his hands to the sky, clenches his fist and loudly proclaims while thrusting his arms upwards with each word:


I have no doubt that he was totally frustrated.  He was doing his best to do exactly what the teacher had asked him to do.  I also know that his teacher was probably just as frustrated because she thought he was ignoring her request.

The problem was they had different opinions of what the word organized meant.

When I questioned Timmy what he was doing, I learned that he was doing exactly what the teacher did.  He moved the things inside his desk and was trying to keep the notebook at exactly the same spot and place she laid it on his desk.  He was standing up and walking around his desk because that was the only way he could write.  She kept asking him why he was standing when he could do a better job writing if he was in his seat.  He crammed everything in his desk so the top of his desk would be "organized."

After Timmy explained to me what he was doing, I explained to Timmy what I thought his teacher meant by organized and told him I thought he should give it a try.  He told me he would and stayed in during his next recess to get "organized."

On my next visit, the teacher I worked with approached me and told me that his classroom teacher had commented in the lounge that Timmy had finally decided to do as she asked and was finally getting "organized." 

I don't think his classroom teacher ever realized that Timmy had always been doing what she asked, but that the problem was Timmy didn't know what organized was.

I wonder how many times we have been disappointed with our students choices because they didn't understand what we wanted?  In the same sense, I wonder how many times as adults we have disappointed our students because we didn't understand their definitions of what they wanted from us?



Very touching. Thanks for sharing this story.



As an ELL teacher I am VERY away of how difficult it is for some of our students to understand language. I spend a lot of time making sure my students feel safe asking for help and asking what words mean. However, I know that when I have to repeat myself SEVERAL times and I get frustrated, my students are not understanding what I am saying. It is hard to stop and take a deep breath and restate.

What you did was wonderful. You changed that boys life. Kudos to you for reaching out and helping him. :)

Ms. M
Ms.M's Blog
A Teacher's Plan


I love this story! Last year I transitioned from Grade 8 to Grade 4...what a crazy change. I loved it but my poor students. I am sure those first few weeks were tough when I would ask them to do something and they just stared at me...and then I would be frustrated because I'd never experienced this with my 8's. Gotta love the constant learning that goes on as a teacher.


Thank you ladies for the comments. I learned a lot from Timmy!

Vintage Teacher

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