I’m back teaching summer school
and my TA is a T.N.
I don’t mean the cute Joseph Gordon-Levitt type. I mean the kid who wears a shirt that has a periodic table with the quote “I wear this shirt periodically,” a mouth full of braces, is as pale as he is skinny, and doesn’t know how to answer a simple question such as “Do you like working with kids,” but can go off on a tangent about the chemical composition of carbon dioxide in an alka-seltzer tab we’re using to make lava. I am not even sure I know what that last sentence means.
He drives me crazy.
For 3rd and 4th period I teach a Chemistry in the Kitchen class to 1st and 2nd grade children. We basically put together stuff that comes from the kitchen in hopes of the following:
1) An explosion.
2) An overflow of ingredients.
3) That it is something we can eat.
It’s a SUPER basic class, and because my specialty is reading and language arts I pride myself on having kept it simple for the last 4 years I’ve taught it. Now this kid shows up and does one or more of the following every day:
1) Corrects the terms I use like “pyramid” to “tetrahedron.”
2) Half cleans up when I ask him to clean up stuff. He only seems to focus on the immediate area around him, and not the entire classroom.
3) Spends 1-2 hours coming up with formulas for simple experiments I ask him to set up like making soda with a bit of baking soda, fruit punch powder, and water.
Let me touch on the last one and finally get to my point. Again this kid drives me crazy. He can be hardly helpful at times because he will sit at the back of the classroom writing out formulas or doodling pictures of the experiments he is supposed to actually ya know, be setting up in real life.
However, the day we were supposed to make the fruit punch soda I taught him something, and he taught me. After spending the first two hours of school writing out formulas and doing taste tests to see if there was a perfect scientific calculation formula thingy between the baking soda, water, and fruit punch he told me it was impossible to make the fizz without the drink tasting super bitter.
So asked him,
“Hey…did you just put the two into the water to taste? Like did you NOT calculate anything and just add in what you thought might work?”
“Um…huh? I tested a few samples from my calculations and-“
That’s a nope.
We went into the classroom. I put a teeny bit of baking soda, half a cup of water, and most of the fruit punch packet in the water. Voilà! Fizz, and a horrifyingly too-sweet drink any kid would love. He tasted it, paused, and replied “Uh ya that tastes pretty good.”
What did he learn? Sometimes its NOT about the perfect calculation for the perfect formula for the perfect result.
The real genius in life is understanding that sometimes the perfect result comes from an imperfect process.
Kinda like my life…
What did I learn? Patience. Although he drives me crazy this is a 14 year-old kid still figuring things out. Rather than forcing any ideas into his head I allow him the space to explore his position in our class in his own nerdy way. I also make sure to praise him highly in the occasional occasion his expertise come in handy.
I’m sure one day this kid will turn out to be just as cool as I am. He will blossom into one of those confident nerds and meet someone who finds his interest in YouTubing Chemistry crash courses fascinating (this is a current hobby of his).
and he’ll be just fine.