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A September Secret - Dear Teacher

Guest Author - Wenda Sheard

Dear Teacher,

Iím excited about being in your class this year. I love it when you smile at us, read us stories, and give us interesting projects to do. I love going to the library, and I look forward to our class parties. Iím trying really hard this year to make a lot of friends, and to have fun in school.

Iím writing you because I want to tell you a secret about me. My mom and dad are thinking they need to tell you about me, but they canít agree on when or how to do it. Mom wants to give you a month or two to get to know me on your own. I think the school principal told mom to wait like that. Dad thinks the school should have given you information about my secret before the first day of school. At the very least, dad says, my teacher from last year should have told you my secret.

Because the adults canít agree on where and how to tell you, I figure itís best if I just tell you myself. Maybe together we can come up with a plan to keep all the adults happy. I really donít want mom or dad or the principal to worry about me this year, and I really donít want anyone to be sad or angry or envious or mad or embarrassed about my secret.

What is my secret? My secret is that Iíve been reading books by myself since I was three or four years old, and Iíve already figured out how to do multiplication, and Iíve figured out that division is just the opposite of multiplication, and I love fractions. And I can write letters, like this one. In other words, I know things. And Iím always learning new things because I read a lot of books and remember a lot about what Iíve read. I heard my mom and dad say that I already know most of what Iím supposed to learn this year.

Yes, I make mistakes sometimes. Although I can do simple papers quickly, my mind likes to wander to more complicated things. Remember last week when I had trouble sitting still in the circle on the floor? I was squirming because I had trouble listening to you explain place value in math. Iíve known almost since I was born that one group of ten pencils is the same as ten pencils. I know that we do math in tens because we have ten fingers.

I would have paid attention, I promise, if you had told the story that my Aunt Martha, the math teacher, invented for me about the seven-fingered aliens who came to earth 7,000 years ago and, probably because they had seven fingers, did math with groups of seven, rather than groups of ten. The aliensí math is called base seven math. Itís cool. Thereís also computer mathóbase twoóbecause computers have only electricity as their ďfingers,Ē and they have only two electricity ďfingersĒóon and off.

I know youíre very busy. I donít expect you to make special lessons for me. Thatís ok. Once I overheard my Aunt Martha say that Iím autopedantic. ďAutoĒ means ďselfĒóas in an automobile moves by itself rather than by horses. ďPedanticĒ has something to do with learning. Aunt Martha, when she called me autopedantic, meant that I learn a lot by myself. I even learned the word ďautopedanticĒ by myselfóI looked it up!

So, can we come up with a plan to keep everyone happy? Maybe the school librarian will let me check out harder books, and I can learn from them. Maybe you can let me make your assignments harder. For instance, maybe I can do my math assignments in base seven rather than base ten. That would make mom happy, especially if Aunt Martha tells mom about the seven-fingered aliens.

Or if weíre writing poems in class, maybe I can write one without using the letter ďeĒ or with using a simile or metaphor or zeugma (which is not an animal, but sounds like it should be!). Or if weíre doing spelling word sentences, I can let my sentences run together into a story that includes the ten words everyone else is learning *and* ten harder words.

And it would be *really* cool if sometime, somewhere, maybe once a week, I could spend time with some older kids who read the same books I read, or if I could study fun math with some other kids who love math as much as I do. Although my classmates are all very nice so far, sometimes I get lonely when people around me donít understand whatís happening in my head.

I know that you need to pretend that everyone in our class is the same so you can give us all the same worksheets and we can all be in the same grade and we can all be friends. Yes, I want friends, and I donít want to be teased on the playground for being different, or for answering all your questions in class. Please excuse me if I sometimes donít raise my hand when I know the answer, or if I raise it more than you want me to raise it. Itís hard for me to figure out what everyone expects of me.

But I really want to learn things I donít already know. And I want you to understand me. I want to be able to talk to you about my secret and how I feel about it. I want you and mom and dad to understand that Iíll do my best to make friends in our class, but I need to have other friends, tooófriends who can play chess with me and talk about interesting books with me.

I promise that if Iím busy learning, Iíll be able to pay attention much better. If I learn more, my parents will be happy and my mom will relax. If I learn more, Iíll have more fun. Please, letís try and figure out something, ok? Thanks.



P.S. I think my mind operates in base twoóeither itís learning or itís not.

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