Teachers need to be patient. Really patient. SO INCREDIBLY PATIENT.

Because here’s the thing. Some kids will get stuff the first time. And then there are some kids who will kind of get it the first time, but then they will really get it the second time. And then there are some kids who need to see something 3, 4, 5 times before they get it. All of that takes patience.

But then there are the kids who still don’t get it after six billion examples, three billion leading questions, nineteen thousand either/or choices, and 392 erasures. For these kids, teachers need the patience of a…searching for a good metaphor…they just need to be really patient. Like a saint or something.

I am not a saint. Just ask my parents. So sometimes I get frustrated with making the same mistake over and over and still not knowing it, and then I let that frustration show on my face, and then the kid can tell I’m frustrated, and since their fragile self-confidence was halfway hanging on the fact that I believed they could do it, they crumple. And then I’m the worst person in the world, because what kind of awful jerkface gets upset with a kid because they don’t understand?

BUT IT IS SO FRUSTRATING!

I have a student who cannot multiply. It’s bizarre, because sometimes she can miraculously do it, but we have been working on things like 53 x 12 since literally November, me reteaching her multiplication every time it comes up (which, as you might imagine, is often). We worked together, one on one, half an hour a day for three months. I still have to reteach every time it comes up so that we don’t get things like 7 x 14 = 38. (For extra bonus points, can you see the mistake she always makes? Sometimes she gets 92, which is a different mistake. Write it up and down and it might jump out at you…) And it doesn’t help that this particular kid has such language issues, she just doesn’t understand what I’m saying half the time. So then we get situations where she does one problem wrong three times, we work like heck and she knows she’s getting it wrong and she knows I just explained how to do it right, but she can’t for the life of her understand what I’m saying. She’s upset because I’m using this awful excessively patient tone, which exacerbates the language issue because she’s flustered and desperate to do it right, and she still can’t do the problem. Sometimes she cries. And then I feel like crap.

I have another student who cannot remember pretty much anything, especially multiplication facts. Here’s a recap of our conversation with flash cards today:

Me: “What’s 7 x 7?”

Her: “Uh….” (Ten seconds later.)

Me: “It’s 49. What’s 7 x 7?”

Her: “49.”

Me: “Great! What’s 8 x 8?”

Her: “Uh…”

Me: “8 x 8 fell on the floor, picked itself up it was…”

Her: “64!”

Me: “Awesome! What’s 7 x 7 again?”

Her: “Uh…”

&*(&#@!&$!!!!!! Blach! It’s so incredibly frustrating. For her and for me. Anyone got ideas for memorizing multiplication facts for kids who can’t remember things reliably? I’m thinking taping facts to her desk until she memorizes one, then switching it out. Or starting everything I say to her with a math fact, the same one all day. I’m hoping desperately that one billion more repetitions will do the trick, because I’m kind of at a loss as to what else to do. I’m tired of feeling like a jerk when they don’t get it but although my patience is less than saintly my determination is terrier-like, and I’m not ready to give up yet. Until then, I guess I take some deep breaths.

This is no quick fix, but have you tried the multiplication table game at freerice.com (perhaps on your TFA iPad)? It gets my kids doing times table drilling when it seems like nothing else will.