Friday, January 21, 2005

Ben's ex-crush, the turkey star and the smartest girl you have ever seen

Ah, 5 year olds. They truly make me think of a time when innocense and ignorance met in blissful harmony. There really is nothing like working with kids all day. So many experiences that make me step back and realize that I am a lucky guy. I'm blessed. I must be teaching for a reason. I must be. It feels too good and right to have ever thought of anything else for a career path. It's the kind of job that's not a job, it's my life. Selling shoes and liquor - now those are jobs. The kind of jobs that I don't necessarily want to go and do. But teaching, it really is amazing.

And with teaching comes many fun stories from kids; fantastic quotes and general insights into the inner workings of 5 - 8 year olds. Take for example a kindergarten girl named Renee. I was assessing her math competency and asking her questions about 32 plastic bear counters (the size of a walnut). The assessment was divided into 5 parts; estimation, counting, counting on and back using counters and counting on and back without counters. She was having a rough time with the first 4 parts of the test and then the last part came up.

Mr. Dorn: "If I have 3 counters and I add one more, how many will I have?"
Renee: "4"

Mr. Dorn: "Good. If I have 6 counters and I add one more, how many will I have?"
Renee: "7"

Mr. Dorn: "Good, Renee. If I have 11 counters and I add one more, how many will I have?"

...and without missing a beat, Renee said, "18! Have you ever seen someone so smart?"

It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Here's this cute little 5 year old, so proud of the fact that she could add 1 more to 11 and come up with 18. She was grinning from ear to ear, delighted that she was doing so well. I couldn't break the news to her. So I kept going.

Mr. Dorn: "Ok. Now let's try taking away. If I have 5 counters and take one away, how many will I have?"
Renee: "4"

Mr. Dorn: "Good. If I have 9 counters and I take one away, how many will I have?"
Renee: "8"

Mr. Dorn: "All right. If I have 12 counters and I take one away, how many will I have?"
Renee: "21! I've been practicing my counting at home."

I kid you not. These are direct quotes. Before I began laughing, I told her she was free to go. I was not sure how to score the test, so I asked her classroom teacher and told her about Renee's answers. Her response was, "That's Renee!" And it's true. Renee is a character. There's always something happening in her life (or her mind) that is just her own little thing. What a kid. She also has a small stuffed bear named "Cream Pie Cherry Cutie Pie". Cherry is her middle name.

Maria is also in Renee's class. She's a bright kid. The kind of kid that, at 5 years old, knows that 6 + 6 = 12 because 5 + 7 =12, so one more to five means one less from 7. Believe it or not, that's incredibly advanced thinking (especially for a kindergartener). A few weeks ago Maria hands me a picture. If I had a scanner, I would show you this thing. It's a pretty decently drawn star (I remember how tough it was to draw stars, honestly), solid orange, drawn on a piece of white printer paper. In the middle of this 5 inch diameter star is a very well drawn brown turkey. I asked her what it was and her response was a confused look on her face followed by, "It's a turkey star" in that 'Oh my gosh I can't believe you don't know what this is' tone. Again, hard not to laugh. So I handed it back to her, complimenting her on her creation and she said, "Oh no, Mr. Dorn. It's for you!" And walked away. It currently resides on our fridge.

Ben is a cool kid. He's an 8 year old musician; piano, cello, violin. He loves classical music and especially Bach. Any time he can write a story in class, it's inevitably going to be about J.S. Bach. Very smart little guy and mature for 2nd grade. On Wednesday he was telling me about a girl who had a crush on him last year while I was passing out some mint-smelling penguin stickers. I walked by his desk...

Ben: "Are those smelly stickers?"
Mr. Dorn: "Yes they are, Ben."

Ben: "A girl who had a crush on me last year gave me one of those."
Mr. Dorn: "Oh, that's nice of her."

Ben: "Yeah, she also put a turkey sandwich in my locker."
Mr. Dorn: "Oh..."

I asked Ben if he knew the reasons or significance for the turkey sandwich, but he did not. Tragically, he and the girl did not work out. Ah, young love. And turkey and mayo on white.

Check out for some really cool things from our childhood you probably haven't thought about in a while.