Monday, January 25, 2010
Nelson Almost Told a Story. A Day in the Life of Mr. Harper and the Gifted Math Class at Cloverdale Middle School.
The 9:00 A.M. bell rang at Cloverdale Middle School. Students rushed through the halls to get to their first period classes. Mr. Harper sat at his desk rearranging stacks of student papers. He eventually graded them, after they made the circuit. Mr. Harper had a method to the chaotic anarchy that seemed to govern his desktop. Newly called for student work was stacked on top of the left bottom corner of his desk. He called them 'Day One Papers'. On day two, yesterday’s Day One Papers were moved to the top left corner of his desk thus making room for the new Day One Papers. On day three the Day One Papers were shuffled across the top of his desk to the top right hand corner, thus making room for new Day One Papers and Day Old Day Two Papers. On day four the Day One Papers were moved to the Launch Pad, the bottom right corner of his desk, thus making room for newly collected Day One Papers, because yesterday’s Day One Papers were moved to the Day Two Paper’s position and the Day Two Papers were moved to the Day Three position and the Day Three Papers were moved to the Launch Pad. Do you see the method to the madness? At the end of day four, the original Day One Papers were gathered and “launched” from the desk top and into his briefcase, which sat on the floor right below the bottom right corner of his desk. The papers were taken home, graded and returned the next day.
One may question Mr. Harper’s organization skills, but his reasoning is convincing,
“Students have until the Launch Pad to turn in late work. If the work isn’t turned in by the launch date then its a zero and after school detention,” he explained.
Although some teachers found him to be a disorganized old fool, the students enjoyed his jolly nature and optimistic attitude toward life’s little disturbances and inconveniences.
Mr. Harper just finished moving the papers from the Day Three position to the launch pad when Nelson walked into the room. Nelson was usually the first to class every morning. He liked to be punctual. He wouldn’t know how to answer if you asked him why. It was just in his nature.
“How are you on this fine Monday morning,” Mr. Harper asked from his desk. He glanced up to look for a response over his reading glasses.
“I’m fine Mr. Harper,” Nelson answered. “I almost got hit by a car crossing the street in front of the school. But I didn't. I'm here, alive and ready for math?”
"You were reading on your way to school weren't you?" Mr. Harper and Nelson discussed Nelson's passion for reading whenever the opportunity presented itself - like when he walked to school. Mr. Harper was one of a dozen cars that nearly hit him last year.
"What did I tell you about reading and walking?" Mr. Nelson put on his stern face.
"Look up when I come to a street," Nelson answered thinking of something else to add to change he subject. "By the way, how was your weekend?"
“Why just dandy,” Mr. Harper said. He sat at his desk with his briefcase on his lap arranging the just arrived papers from the launch pad. The other students in his first period Math for the Highly Gifted and Socially Backward were tardy - as usual. The school's aquarium was a distraction for some on their way to class. The motion of the fish - back and forth through the water - seemed to hypnotize them. Others simply lost track of the time, while others had to be rescued from their lockers. Typical for a middle school's bottom feeders.
The Everly twins were chronically late because of the various creative ways they walked to class. The two redheaded girls had a fear of the predictable. By their calculations, people that lived unpredictable lives lived longer. Each day they tried to think of different ways to walk to math. Every day they thought of different places to sit during the lesson. Every day they asked to be excused at different times, once again trying to avoid predictability.
Mr. Harper was startled when he looked up from his briefcase. Nelson stood right over him, watching while he shuffled papers.
“Whoa partner, trying to give an old man a heart attack?” Mr. Harper said while clutching his heart.
“No, why would I want to do that,” Nelson said. “You’re actually the only teacher in this institution that has a good understanding and grasp of mathematics. I consider myself lucky to be in your class. I could be anywhere right now - like dead in a ditch. But I'm not. I'm right here standing in front of you watching you move papers.”
“You’re so kind,” Mr. Nelson responded.
“Not really,” Nelson shrugged. “I’m stating a fact, not a conjuncture.”
Mr. Harper stood and stepped back, putting more distance between himself and his precocious 12 year old student.
“What did you do this weekend?” he asked, hoping to draw Nelson into a conversation. Nelson was brilliant in math yet inept at simple, conventional conversation. The practice would do him good.
Nelson smiled. Nelson always smiled. For some strange reason, Nelson was always happy. Several of his other teachers though he was just too stupid to understand social situations - a common problem of the gifted. Mr. Harper didn’t think so. He thought Nelson was just one of those few precious people you meet in life that really are blessed with a natural cheery disposition.
“I almost got to go to the movie,” Nelson said in his usual happy voice.
“Well, what DID you do this weekend?” Mr. Harper repeated.
“I almost got to have a sleep over with Morris!” Nelson's smile grew larger while his eyes brightened in the telling of each thing he almost did.
“Mr. Harper, you’ll never guess, you’ll never guess!”
“What Nelson. What is it I’ll never guess?”
“Are you ready for this. It is a first for me. I was so happy I nearly wet myself. In fact I’m almost as happy just telling you right now.”
“You don’t have to go do you?” Mr. Harper pointed toward the door.
“No, I’m good. I said I nearly wet myself. Mr. Harper, I ALMOST got to go snowboarding! What do you think of that?” Nelson beamed. Mr. Harper stared at the boy in wonderment. This boy found contentment in almost doing something. He was a strange boy indeed.
“Nelson, I almost enjoyed that story,” Mr. Harper smiled. Nelson broke into laughter. Just then the Everly twins appeared. One entered the classroom through the north door, while the other entered through the south. They circled the room three times before sitting at opposite ends of the classroom. Mr. Harper looked at Nelson. Nelson looked at Mr. Harper. They shrugged their shoulders in bewilderment.
It was a Monday and the start of a new week for Cloverdale Middle School’s Gifted Math Class.