How about a T for thinking?

Today, while reading Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson, this short story got me thinking:

The picture has a dallop of peanut butter on one edge, a smear of grape jelly on the other, and an X across the whole thing. I cut it out of a magazine for homework when I was six years old. “Look for words that begin with W,: my teacher, Mrs. Evans, had said.

She was the one who marked the X, spoiling my picture. She pointed, “This is a picture of family, Hollis. A mother, M, a father, F, a brother, B, a sister, S. They’re standing in front of their house, H. I don’t see a W word here.”

I opened my mouth to say: How about a W for wish, or a W for want, or a W for “Wouldn’t it be loverly,” like the song the music teacher had taught us?

But Mrs. Evans was at the next table by that time, shushing me over her shoulder.
-Written by Patricia Reilly Giff, Pictures of Hollis Woods
Published in Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson, Chapter 3

This story reminds me of another one a friend of mine told me the other day. A little boy said something like, “My mommy is a fish.” Confused, his teacher tried to figure out what he meant. Eventually the child confided (again, something along the lines of), “My fish died and my Daddy says my Mommy is dying.”

Sometimes, kids see things so much more intelligently than we do. More importantly, sometimes they just see things differently than we expected them to. There is beauty in that. And if we make assumptions about their thinking, or only take one answer as the right one, not only do we crush their spirits with our big X’s, but we teach them not to think.

This is one of those lessons I hope that I keep with me for the rest of my teaching career. It’s also one that I think can define a teacher; that is whether or not they adhere to it.

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