Today is the first full day of Hanukkah. On Hanukkah, we celebrate two miracles. One is the fact that the outnumbered Maccabee army defeated the Syrian army. The other is that, as they recaptured and defended the temple, a day’s worth of oil wound up lighting the lamp for a full eight days.
The well-known dreidel game (in which you spin a top adorned with four Hebrew letters – nun, gimel, hay, shin) alludes to these miracles. The letters stand for the Hebrew words, “Nes gadol haya sham” which, in English, means “A great miracle happened there.”
I have dreaded test prep in my classroom, but now that we have begun in earnest, I must say, it is not going as badly as I expected. Some kids are almost intuitively grasping the concepts of main idea and supporting details (including some I hadn’t anticipated). Importantly, with a variety of interesting texts to read and work through, investment (at this point) is high. I think it will remain so as long as I’m not ramming it down their throats with text that is too difficult. Frustration would then set in.
In math this week, we have worked on some very difficult word problems. We started with two-step problems that involve using addition (or multiplication) and then a second round of addition. We have also worked on missing factor problems that require some sophisticated array building and analysis. The more we work on these problems, the clearer they become for the students.
It’s early, but all this makes me think that come the end of the year, when we see students levels and grades, people who don’t expect much might just be saying, “A great miracle happened there.”