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Classroom reflections

March 30, 2009|By CLAUD KITCHENS

Seventh-grade math was a mystery to Matt. It might as well have been Sanskrit. He just couldn't fathom it.

Every teacher of junior high and middle school knows that, at this age, students are almost all temporarily insane. Fortunately, most of them successfully grow out of this stage of life.

Matt was in danger of not making it to that point. His classmates consistently laughed at him and made his life miserable.

About the middle of the year, I discovered that there was something Matt could do better than anyone in his class. Matt could make sounds of animals. The sounds were so realistic it seemed that the animal he was mimicking was in the room with us. Turkeys, cows, pigs, horses and many birds were part of his repertoire.

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I began ending every class by asking Matt to make the sound of a particular animal. After a while, his fellow students were asking when I was going to ask Matt to "do his thing." All of a sudden, he was a respected member of the group.

I believe strongly that every child should leave school each day feeling better about himself or herself than they did when they arrived at school that morning.

Matt never finished high school, but did become a successful small business owner.

Claud Kitchens, who passed away recently, was an educator for more than 35 years, retiring in 1990 as the deputy state superintendent of the Maryland State Department of Education. Prior to that, he was the superintendent of Washington County Public Schools.

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