The Name of the Game

01/11/2010
The rose has thorns only for those who would g...
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I’ve been hanging around after school more than usual lately.

I usually come in very early and leave as close to three as I can, but lately I’ve been having too much fun to leave.

I’ve been teaching some of my sixth grade girls a game.

The girls are part of our popular after-school program and they’re supposed to be in the classroom opposite mine with a teacher who is actually paid to be there, but they hang out with me when they can.

The game I teach is called Petals Around the Rose and the name is important.

If you know the game, skip the next two paragraphs to the crux of the story while I explain the game to everyone else.

In the game I roll five dice and announce a score. The object of the game is to figure out why the score is what I say it is. I keep rolling the dice and announcing scores until you start telling me the scores before I tell you.

The scores follow a rule and you win by spotting the pattern and determining the rule I follow. If a student does they are beholden not to reveal the secret and I give them dice so they can start to teach the game to others.

S got it today.

S is a small, thin serious-minded girl with a winning smile and a huge dose of self-assurance. She is very bright, takes intellectual risks and is an absolute delight to have in the class.

I started playing the game with S and three other girls on Friday. We played for almost three hours. Each of the other girls walked away from the table from time to time. Not S.

S sat there making notes, making charts, getting frustrated, laughing, and shooting me skeptical looks.

I kept telling her the name of the game, Petals Around the Rose and that the name was important. I also told her that she would feel so good when she finally got it.

S sent me an email on Sunday evening telling me she’d been puzzling over the game all weekend and chiding me for torturing her.

As soon as she saw me today she said, “After school we’re playing the game.”

It took me three days of playing two hours a day or so to figure out the game.

It took S another two hours today.

I am so used to students who frustrate quickly and fly off the handle. I really enjoyed watching S struggle with the game but keep going. I admire her persistence, her determination, and her grit.

When she finally got it her excitement was electrifying. At times when she got frustrated I told her she’d feel good when she got it, and she told me she had never felt as good.

I gave her the dice we used as a prize. She immediately went across the hall, she said to celebrate.

When I looked into that class on my way out the door five minutes later, S had a crowd of ten students around her and she was rolling the dice.

Students often ask when they will ever use what we try to teach them, and teachers often wonder why the students don’t use what we’ve taught.

S never asked why I was teaching her the game, and I got to see her use it right away.

Priceless.

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