The best thing about Tuesday is I get to leave my office, get in a black car with a driver and get chauffered through Central Park to Madison and 128th Street - in the middle of Harlem. I get to escape my desk, my phone, my email and my work for 2-3 hours and hang out with Shade, McKayla, Dymir, Ronald, Miguel and Camari to name a few. They are some of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders I help with homework in their school's Homework Club.
The kids are generally loud and unruly and mostly there to avoid doing homework for as long as possible but still get a snack and hopefully at least 2 or maybe even 3 juice boxes and then play hangman. There are usually 3-4 tutors, a teacher and about 10-15 kids. Today there were only 2 tutors and at least 15 kids which is always a recipe for wild, homework avoiding behavior.
One of my favorite kids is Miguel, a fourth grader. A few months ago Miguel was working on his math, became frustrated with his times tables and launched into full press avoidance tactics. There had been some sort of bean project earlier in the day and he sent beans and noodles of all sorts flying across the room. He was yelling and nearly in tears and eventually hid under a desk. My heart went out to this kid - he was me. I hated math and times tables specifically so much I know I threw multipile fits. Although I believe I generally kept them confined to home. Up until that point I had mostly worked with a couple of manic second graders but they were gone for the day so I reached out to Miguel and coaxed him out from under the desk (which he didn't really fit under very well in the first place). I tried to empathize and explained how much I hate times tables and that they are still hard for me because I never learned them as well as I should have in school which I regret. I could almost hear the defiant thought in his head - "whatever, of course you know math, it is only hard for me." He kept telling me his teacher didn't make him do as much because it was harder for him. Every once in a while since that scene I would corner him and force him to do some flash cards with me but I could still see the defiant resistance in his eyes. He didn't believe me that I had to stop and think about 9x8 too and usually wanted to just give up.
Last week Miguel was working with another tutor when I heard him saying "we haaaaate math. But you have to do it. It has to be done even when you hate it." Then he pointed at me and said "she hates math as much as I do." I felt such pride swelling in my heart - we bonded over our hatred of math. We've been working through times tables, divison and today we did fractions. He always has me help him with math now because he believes how much I hate it! I'm not sure if that is the best way to help but it works with Miguel and that is saying a lot. Today he finished his fractions with enough time to play hang man and I stumped him with Mardi Gras and got many giggles from the kids when I explained that today is Fat Tuesday. One commented that next week should be Skinny Tuesday until the teacher said there would be no snack for Skinny Tuesday and they all agreed it could be regular Tuesday but they should eat more Cheese Nips today in honor of Fat Tuesday.