I was always a “smarty-pants.” Well, not really, but I was an early reader and a whiz at math. In class I always had the answer before the teacher had finished explaining the problem. I zipped through my math problems, enjoying the challenge of finishing first, since answering all the questions correctly was never a challenge!
I was the “teacher’s pet” when it came to math. Or so I thought. One day, Mrs. Mault, my third grade teacher gave us a math test. I “won” by finishing first. Nobody else knew of the competition, but that mattered not to me, I had won again! At the end of the school-day my teacher asked me to stay back for a few minutes. She then handed me the class' math papers and a red marker and asked that I take the papers home and grade them. “Just use your paper as the answer key.”
Now I was really proud! I mean, think of it…8 years old and grading papers! I bolted home and set about my task! One by one I marked in lovely red marker every mistake made by my less-gifted classmates. (What a bunch of dummies!)
I was nearing the end of this labor of pride, when I noticed a pattern. Yes, I was a gifted math student and patterns did not elude me! I checked, and sure enough, I was right. Every single kid had gotten the same question wrong. And the majority of these kids had gotten the same answer.
I felt the first twinge of nervousness enter my prideful heart. I grabbed my paper and reworked the problem. With that sinking feeling one can only experience at times when they realize they have not only erred, but have erred in permanent red ink all over their classmates’ papers, I discovered my error. And so it was that my third grade teacher taught me yet another of those very important life lessons. In doing my “homework” that day, I learned to double-check my work, to recognize that even I can make stupid mistakes, and to hold my quick judgment of others…at least until I have scrutinized myself with that same judgment. I have no doubt Mrs. Mault had already graded my paper, and these lessons were intentionally taught. They were taught in such a way that I “discovered” the lessons for myself. And they were taught in a way that ensured I would BELIEVE!!!