Once a week I help my grandson with his schoolwork. It’s a tough day, for both of us. He has little interest in Google slides, or prerecorded stories on Youtube read aloud by random teachers. He interrupts my instruction and the videos constantly to tell me about outer space, meteors and solar storms. He wants to know why the dinosaurs are gone and then offers several theories. I redirect him again and again.
I look for learning tools to minimize his fidgeting, to calm him, and to help keep him on task. With everything I try he manages to turn the gadget into a project of his own. Most recently I purchased four small containers of therapy putty, separated by color and firmness. I was hoping it would busy his hands and reduce the wiggles while he listened to stories. As the video played my grandson combined the putty with my collection of sea glass to create a galaxy. Then he told me all about it, explaining the different regions and where the meteors had hit. It was far more interesting than the video about trees that I had paused.
He finished telling me his galaxy’s story, and I told him we had to get back to the trees. There were questions to answer, and a Compare and Contrast Diagram to complete. None of which he was the least bit interested in doing. He whined and complained, but he did it. And then I let him take a break to get back to his galaxy. He asked if he could mix all the putty together. I must have made a face because he asked if I was mad. I wasn’t mad. I was annoyed, with myself.
I’m a retired educator. This is not what good teaching looks like. I’m motoring him through tasks and hoping the information sticks. I’m not sure he is learning a thing. I don’t know how any kids are learning this way. I know better, I should have the answers, yet I don’t. I suppose I’m like everyone else, doing the best I can.
I sigh, “I’m not mad Pal. I’m really not. It’s just that Nonna is the kind of person who likes things neat and in order. I don’t mix colors or make messes. I really wish I could be more like you. I do. You try new things and you don’t care about messes. You think in ways that I never have. I wish the world was full of people like you. Go ahead, mix up the colors. They’re yours.”
He grins and gets busy creating another galaxy. This one with rainbow colors.
We finish the day’s work. The last math page nearly does us both in, but we muscle through. Check, another task complete. I give him a big hug and tell him how proud I am. He worked so hard today. He packs up his stuff, time to go home. Walking out to the car he asks, “Nonna was your mom like me?”
He catches me off guard, my eyes fill with tears. He knows my mom was an artist, a creative soul. She never cared for school and she feared Math. I balanced her checking account regularly. I smile at the memory of me trying to teach her, and her just begging me to do it for her. So I did.
I put my arm around Luca and I say, “Yes, my mom was like you. You are like her. She would have loved you so much.”
Seems I’m always trying to teach, when there is so much more to learn.