Saturday, May 18, 2013

Free Time

            “Why can’t I have my free time?

            I looked across the table at Caitlyn.  Her pink shorts and black and white polka dot blouse contrasted perfectly with her pale blond hair.  Her skin was porcelain, her eyes were crystal blue, and her mouth was a frowning pout.

            “We need to do the corrections on your test.  Kids who got a low grade on their math test have to do corrections to get ready for the retest tomorrow.”

            “But I want my free time!  All the other kids are getting free time.”

            “No, everyone else is not getting free time.  The only kids getting free time are those who don’t need to take their test over.  Roberto is doing corrections with us,” I said sweeping my hand at Roberto sitting at the table with us.

            “I don’t want my free time,” Roberto said quickly.  “My mom’ll get mad if I don’t get a better grade on this test.”

            I turned back to Caitlyn, “Let’s get through these corrections so I can make sure you know how to do the problems.  If everyone stays focused, we should finish in time for you to get back to class with some free time left.”

            Caitlyn slid down into her chair, pushed her lips out even more, lowered her head, and glared back.  I laid the kid’s corrected tests in front of them.   Even though the tests had been graded with a bright green Sharpie, the 58% at the top of Roberto’s test and 53% at the top of Caitlyn test looked ominous.

            Caitlyn was not giving up.  “I already know this stuff.  Why can’t I just do the new test tomorrow?

            “I need to make sure you know how to do the problems.  And remember, you can’t do the retest unless you’ve corrected this test.”

            “I want to correct my test,” Roberto said quickly glancing back and forth between Caitlyn and me.

            “Good,” I said crisply. “Let’s look at number three.  I can see both of you missed that.  Caitlyn, why don’t you read number three out loud?”

            “Why can’t I do my corrections at home?  I want free time.”

            “I’ll read number three,” Roberto said.

            I paused a minute waiting for Caitlyn. 

            Breathe slow.  Wait.


            “Roberto.  Read number three.”

            He read quickly, “Below is a list of the scores Mrs. Robinson’s sixth grade class got on their math test.  Make a Box and Whiskers graph to show how the scores are distributed.”

            “Thank you Roberto.  Now guys, what’s the first step you do to make a Box and Whiskers graph?”

            Roberto raised his head and squinted at the ceiling.  Caitlyn set her test on top of her notebook, pulled both of them into her lap, and began writing.  I wondered if she was writing, “Mrs. Jones is stupid.”

            “Find the middle number?” Roberto said hesitantly.

            “That’s right.”

            Caitlyn looked over at Roberto with hooded dead eyes then bent her head back to her writing.

            “Caitlyn, what do you do to find the middle number?”

            I waited. 

            And waited.

            And waited.

            “Caitlyn, do you remember what you do to find the middle number?”

            After ten more seconds she looked up.  “Why can’t I have free time?  I know how to do this!”

            “All you have to do is one graph with me.  Just do one graph to show you know how to do this.”

            “I’ll do it tonight at home.  My mom likes helping me with my math!”

            I bit my lips to keep from laughing.  I had a dozen emails from Caitlyn’s mom that said differently.

            “I think I know what you do first,” Roberto said hesitantly.

            I pulled a deep breath in, let it out slowly, then turned to Roberto and said brightly, “OK, what do you do first?”

            “Put them in order from the littlest to the biggest?”

            “Yes.  That’s exactly what you do first.”

            “It’s not fair,” Caitlyn muttered from across the table.  “I want my free time.”

            I looked up at the clock.  Thirty more minutes until my plan period.

            Yeah.  I want my free time too!


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