Thursday, March 16, 2006

Be a Mentor! My lovely afternoon with Menticia.

On Monday the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program held a dinner for new mentors and program veterans. The new folks wanted to know what we do with the kids.

So here's a report on my perfect yesterday afternoon with Menticia, who recently turned 10 and is in fifth grade. We've been doing this for a year and a half...

I picked her up from school at 2:30. She's on safety patrol (it's rather a sinecure - she just stands near the front door and tells kids not to run to the bus).

As she supervised the sidewalk, she excitedly told me about the bunk beds her parents recently bought for her and her sisters. It had taken a GREAT DEAL of family discussion to arrive at the following plan: night by night the three girls will rotate possession of the preferred upper berth (while the other two squeeze into the lower). Luckily, she assures me gravely, they all sleep soundly and don't thrash about.

We went back to my house and she had a sandwich and milk and worked on her math homework. As usual, she thought she already understood it perfectly - however, within minutes we were having an excellent and much-needed discussion on carving up a complex shape to compute its area.

I shudder at how many levels of competence a correct answer requires. She must see the simple shapes inside the fancy ones; she must keep track of them all and lose none; she must remember when to add, not subtract - or vice versa - and when to multiply; and finally, she must add and subtract and multiply correctly!

Her navigation of math homework reminds me of "fast cars, danger, fire, and knives" ...

... or a chase scene with her rickety little car leaning loonily as it careens through the streets narrowly missing - or not missing - untold obstacles.

Next we followed up on the birthday present I gave her: a Kumbia Kings cd and the sheet music I wrote up to go with it, and a slowed-down version of the song she wanted to learn, which rips by mighty fast.

Though I'd suggested we both practice it while I was away in New England, predictably neither of us did. We sat on the piano bench together. She corrected my Spanish as I sneakily worked on her singing issues. Then she started learning the tune on the piano, using the hunt-and-peck technique.

When she got tired of that, we moved on to our long-term book project, Redwall. I'm chagrined to see we started gnawing away at this book in December!

We're now halfway through, and she's reading it confidently and with relish. Yesterday I even learned a new word from this book: leveret. I enjoyed her astonishment that there was a word I didn't already know. Hehehe!

In this book about monk mice defending their abbey against an evil rat named Cluny the Scourge, there are mysterious inscriptions which include anagrams...

... so we tore my son Zed (home for spring break) away from his work for a moment so we could borrow his computer and look up the Anagram Server to see if there were any good anagrams for any of our names, but there weren't.

Then we discussed the phrase, "smiled inwardly." This is an excellent one for Menticia because she holds her cards very close to her chest. She doesn't really like to give anything away. I saw her practicing "smiling inwardly" (inwardly) as we read...

Menticia had more endurance for reading today because her school is in the midst of a spring "readathon" sponsored by the PTA. I didn't exactly get what this is - maybe there are prizes - but she has a special blue piece of paper for logging all the minutes she spends reading.

Menticia loves a good competition.

We started reading at 4:17 and finished at 5:47. She shyly admitted she didn't exactly know how to compute how many minutes that was. She'd gotten her older sister to compute some of her log entries - later "the kid who sits in front of me" had done a few more of them for her. But then he'd told her to do the rest herself! Which she couldn't.

So I showed her how and, needless to say, she was quite enthused and immediately filled in all the blanks on the log.

Then she wanted to add up all the time she'd spent at the readathon challenge to date, so I showed her how and - wow, since the Readathon began she's read more than 15 hours! That absolutely blew her away!

We made dinner together. "Is spaghetti ok?" "Yes, I've been wanting spaghetti, you read my mind!" She was even willing to eat some baby carrots!

Then it was just about time to take her home, but first she asked what this week's Illustration Friday theme was, because we often paint together on Fridays.

She wanted to see the illustrations my daughter Melina and I had posted for the current prompt, and she read all the comments, and I could tell she was a little regretful that she hadn't gotten to participate this week.

You'd think this was everything - but in the car on the way home, Menticia said "I can't wait for Saturday - I'm reciting a French poem in a contest." As I said, she loves a good competition...

Her poem is about a snail and an elephant.

So of course I asked her to recite it for me, and she rattled it off, and I said, "That was great, but it went by so fast I couldn't hear the words," and she looked at me with surprise and said, "Hey, that's exactly what my teacher said!"

So I talked to her about shaping each word with her lips and mouth as if she loved it, and we both tried it, and it was so incredibly fun, and then we were back at her house and we said goodbye.

Technorati Tags: , , ,



At 3:04 AM, Anonymous Teka said...

Menticia sounds like a very sweet girl! Thank you for sharing your day together with us.

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to being a mentor. I can't wait to find out who my mentee is going to be. I really want to have a day like this with my mentee. Pat Sheley


Post a Comment

<< Home

Find me on Google+