Monday, August 17, 2009

Geoffrey: Adding It Up

Geoffrey is a seasoned member of The Shakespeare Club. At eight years of age, he was a success as Horatio in "Hamlet," and at nine, his Romeo was romantic.

This year, ten-year-old Geoffrey will soar as Sir Toby Belch. However, much like his director, Geoffrey struggles with the taxing chores of logic.

I don't think I have a left brain at all. A cursory scan might well show that my right brain took its box of crayons to the other side and colored over the math and science cells.

As Geoffrey and I walk across the campus together, I recognize his level of anxiety. Geoffrey hides his homework and "forgets" to turn it in. His face scrunches in worry. His left brain may be AWOL.

"Geoffrey, are you saying the school is giving you a math coach?"

"Yeah, I got a coach."

He says this with a shrug, as if he's embarrassed about being singled out.

"I'm so jealous."

He throws me a skeptical look and we continue walking.

"I'm serious, man. I never had help and I was lousy at math. My head just doesn't go there."

"You, Ms. Ryane?"

"Yes, Geoffrey, it's the truth. If someone put me in a room and said, 'Ms. Ryane, you can have a million dollars....All you have to do is multiply and divide these fractions,'...Geoffrey, I'd leave with an empty wallet."


"Okay, look at me."

We stop, he tilts his chin up and I put my hand on his shoulder.

"I'm fine. I'm a happy, successful person anyway. You have a golden highway in front of you, my friend. You're talented and super-bright and you're going to have a great life. You just have to get through these few years of arithmetic, so suck up all the help you can because on the other end...seriously, it gets way better. Just breathe, Geoffrey. The only math you're going to need is how to figure out twenty percent for tips...I promise."

Remember this?

"Okay class, solve the problem: Sally is going to visit her grandmother. She gets on a train to travel 45 miles to her grandma's 150-acre farm. Sally carries a basket of 6 apples to share with 3 horses and 1 cow. If Sally leaves at 8 o'clock, the train breaks down, she gets hungry and has to walk 16 miles, how many apples will she have left?"

Here's how a right brain crunches the numbers:

I love the name Sally, it's so me and a train ride, yay! I'll wear my new blue jeans and my peach top and the 6 apples will be green ones, plus I'll have 2 vanilla cupcakes with lemon icing and sprinkles. When I get to the farm, my chubby grandma will give me 12 kisses and 5 hugs. I'll play with her 13 chickens, ride the 3 horses, squish 7 cow pies and tuck in bed at night listening to 45,000 crickets.

Problem solved.

"Geoffrey, do you have your harmonica with you?"

"Yeah." He pulls it out of his pocket.

"I think it would be way cool if you made your entrance playing it."

He shares a sly smile.

"Let's try...go on...sit in your chair...and when I read your cue, you move to the bench playing the harmonica. Ready?"

He jauntily kicks his feet out in his Sir Toby-walk and plays the blues.

"Geoffrey, great! Can you remember the music? I really like it...let's go with that one."

"Oh, I can't do that, Ms. Ryane."

"What d'you mean?"

"It won't be the same every time."

And it never was.

What the hell does an improvising blues player need with long division, I ask you? What?

Dear Olivia,

I will have have revenge and I will rise to show you guys that I am smarter than you think I am and then well get married and have children and I have the names planed out Pico, chico, rico, fico and loco.

—Geoffrey, 5th grade

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