“I don’t know how to do this,” Roberto wailed. I had seen him staring blankly five inches to the left of my head during my entire lesson, so I wasn’t surprised. I stood between him and Naomi and reviewed how I wanted him to write his concluding paragraph again. This time he was watching me.
“OK,” Roberto said, “I think I know how to do it.”
“Does anyone else have any questions?” I said to the full group. “You’re all going to be writing a concluding paragraph that has a food for thought statement in it.”
Ruby had spent a big part of the time yawning and rolling her eyes, so again, I wasn’t surprised when her hand went up.
“What’s a food for thought statement?” she asked.
“Oh, good grief!” Kylie wailed, and laid her head down on her desk.
“Ruby, you weren’t listening,” I stated, glaring back at her. The kids were hoping for a snow day. There would be no snow day today. Ruby stared back at me, and gradually a small smile started at the corner of her mouth.
“I can’t write one if I don’t know what one is,” she said coyly.
Ruby sat directly behind Naomi, so I stepped to the left and again went through the steps for writing a food for thought concluding paragraph. This was my third time and I was getting good at quickly summarizing the directions.
“All right guys,” I said as I began passing out an essay they had begun last week, “I want you all to finish your essays with a food for thought concluding paragraph. Does anyone have any questions?” Naomi’s hand went up. I stopped passing out papers and stared at her. This was getting ridiculous. “What’s your question Naomi?”
“I don’t understand what to do,” she stated calmly.
“What part of what I said did you not hear?” I said evenly. I had developed a bad habit of slowing my speech down and over-articulating things whenever Naomi started claiming she didn’t know what to do after I had stated it several times. I slipped into my bad habit as I asked the question.
“I heard everything you said,” Naomi explained back. She was over-articulating her words back to me. Then she leaned forward, extended her index finger, and drew and huge horizontal circle in front of her as she said, “I didn’t understand the whole thing.” Naomi also didn’t understand the sarcasm of “What part did you not hear,” and I should never have used that phrase with her. In line with her understanding, she was showing me “the whole thing” she didn’t understand.
I took a deep breath and asked, “Do you know what a concluding paragraph is, Naomi?”
“No,” she calmly said, “But it’s something about food.”
“Do you know what a paragraph is?” I was going to find the starting point if it killed me.
Naomi extended her arm in front, palm facing me, fingers stretched wide and announced, “Five sentences.”
I began my fourth explanation of the concluding paragraph. After I finished and asked Naomi if she knew what to do, she sadly looked back, shook her head, and sighed, “I don’t get it. What food are we writing about?”
I had deliberately left out the phrase “food for thought” with my explanation to Naomi. I told her to write a sentence that would make someone think a little more about what she had written. I had suggested ending her essay with a question for the reader.
“We’re not writing about food,” I articulated.
“But you said the paragraph would be about food,” Naomi said.
Kylie laid her head back, looked at the ceiling, and blew a small air explosion. Ruby decided to be helpful, leaned forward, and yelled, “It’s an expression! There’s no food. You just write!”
When I got home from school that afternoon there was a half pan of brownies on the counter left over from earlier in the week. I sliced off a piece, ate it, and kept slicing off pieces. Two hours later when my husband arrived home to find me staring at the TV, he asked what happened to the pan of brownies.
I stretched out my arm, extended my index finger, and drew an imaginary horizontal circle in front of me as I said, “I ate the whole thing.”