You can only get by in life for so long making off-the-cuff and, often times, inappropriate smart-ass remarks. Sooner or later, you find yourself surrounded by young, impressionable children. Children who are looking for answers to everyday questions that are essential to providing a solid foundation for becoming a reasonably intelligent human-being. Peel the sarcasm away and it’s a real test to see if there’s a smart banana inside. My sooner arrived when I became a volunteer in my daughter’s 1st grade classroom and I quickly discovered that I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed.
The advances in curriculum for elementary school children over the past four decades is astounding. In 1st grade alone, the kids are writing books, reading above grade level, making “literary connections”, learning “sparkle” words, giving presentations and taking weekly spelling tests. The only thing I remember about first grade is tasting some mint paste, loving the smell of freshly scented, warm ditto sheets and loosing a pair of burgundy orthopedic shoes in the snow – which my mother made the principal put out an APB to the entire school via the morning announcements in a mad search for my Lurch shoes.
Today during my volunteer time, the teacher asked me to work with a couple of the kids on homophones and their meanings. I’m thinking, wow, they are sure progressive teaching the children not to be afraid of gay people. Then she pointed out a few examples like “rye” and “wry”, not “Rush” and “Limbaugh”. Oh, homophones, not homophobes! If you’re a dumbass like I am and wondering what a homophone is, they are words that sound the same but have different meanings.
As I started going over the words with the children, I came across a few that I had never heard of like “stile” and “gilt.” Luckily, the definitions were included in the instructions. I could hide my lack of intelligence until I was asked by the kids to describe how the words are used in detail while providing examples. My memory gets a little foggy at this point, but I recall something about a zoo and a coin in my explanations. However, I had no problem citing an example of “style” not “stile,” as my 1st grader asked me to change my maroon mock turtleneck prior to going to school because “the kids do not like that style.” Unfortunately, my Hannah Montana hoodie was in the wash so I had to make do with my “in the elderly” sweater from Talbots.
In the afternoon, I made my way to the library for my biweekly volunteer shift. There’s nothing like a well-read 4th grader to make you feel dumb as a box of rocks. I’m recommending Captain Underpants and Nancy Drew books to kids that have read through an entire list of New York Times bestsellers. Putting books back on the shelf is also a grand opportunity to realize that I still don’t know how to count or alphabetize. After a solid hour of putting books away, I was pretty much ready to kick Dewy Decimal’s ass when a book caught my eye entitled, “How To Raise A Gifted Child.” As I scanned through each page I wondered, if I can barely pass 1st grade the second time around, is there still hope for my own child?
The good news is yes! Thank God genetics is only a portion of what makes a child gifted. According to the book, in addition to parental guidance and support, a good partnership with the teacher is also imperative. So I guess, even though I may not be able to pass some of the tests or define a few homophones, the most important thing is to be a part of the process. That, and now the homophone kids can imitate a great facial “tic” not “tick,” thanks to yours truly.