Wednesday, May 20, 2020

"Circle, Star, Rectangle, Pyramid, Square, Cube, Oval"

Calder said, "Teacher Tom, I want to show you. Come with me." 

I was in the middle of something, so answered, "I can't come right now. I'll come when I'm finished."

He went away, but came back to remind me of my promise. "I want to show you. Come with me."

Children were talking to me. I said, "Oh yeah, Calder wants to show me something." When I went with him, other children followed.

He dropped to his knees near the outdoor drum set that graced our playground until the children played it into the dumpster. He showed me what he had collected from the loose parts that populate our outdoor classroom. "Look what I have!" Then he pointed, "Circle, star, rectangle, pyramid, square, cube, oval."

I said, "You found a circle, a star, a rectangle, a pyramid, a square, a cube, and an oval."

He repeated it for me, for all of us, several times. When he was done, he got up and walked away.

Henry asked, "What did he say?"

"Calder told us what he found: circle, star, rectangle, pyramid, square, cube, oval."

Henry dropped to his knees, pointing, "Circle, star, rectangle, pyramid, square, cube, oval."

"You said those shapes."

Now it was a game. Several kids followed suit, some struggling with the names of the three-dimensional shapes. Then Elana took her place, feeling silly, "Wood, basket, lego, block, box, block, ring."

"Hey, you found different names for everything!"

By then, Calder had returned, "No! Circle, star, rectangle, pyramid, square, cube, oval!" He said it fast, almost too fast to be understood. He wasn't happy that we'd re-labeled his collection. Or maybe he thought we were telling him that his things weren't what he knew they were.

I said, "Circle, star, rectangle, pyramid, square, cube, oval." He said, "Yes," again repeating the list, this time even faster than before, "Circlestarrectanglepyramidsquarecubeoval!"

"And Elana said, 'Wood, basket, lego, block, box, block, ring.'"

Calder cocked his head. He sat quietly by his collection, picking up some of the pieces, then putting them back. Most of the other children had moved on, but Violet was still there beside me. She said, "Wood, metal, plastic, plastic, plastic, wood, plastic."

Calder whipped around to look at her. His expression was fierce for a moment, but then he smiled. Pointing, he said, "Wood, metal, plastic, plastic, plastic, wood, plastic."

A few minutes later, I was standing alone by the collection, trying to take a picture that would help me tell this story. Luella had not been part of the group of children who had been investigating Calder's collection. She looked at my camera, then followed its aim to the objects. As I slipped the camera into my pocket, and turned to focus on her, she dropped to her knees, pointing, "One, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7!"


My new book, Teacher Tom's Second Bookwill be back from the printers any moment now! I'm incredibly proud of it. I just checked the sales page and noticed that the publisher has forgotten to end the pre-publication discount, so if you hurry you should still be able to get a price break not just on the new book, but also on Teacher Tom's First Book! Heh, heh . . .

And finally, this is uncomfortable for me, but I earn most of my income by speaking at education conferences and running in-person workshops. I've had 95 percent of my income wiped out for the next 9 months due to everything being cancelled. I'm hustling to become a new and improved Teacher Tom. I know I'm not the only one living with economic insecurity, but if you like what you read here, please consider hitting the yellow donate button below.

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