Dina West:  Hero Among Heros

© 2004, A. Azzolino

      Heros walk where I sit and stand in classroom and office.   Heros walk and work and even sometimes play.   Heros walk and work and I get to watch and learn as I teach my heros.   Heros with determination and wisdom and perseverance who have insecurities to overcome, adversaries to master, and challenges to meet that I, a "normal person," often cannot anticipate or imagine.   My heros are among the group labeled "students taking Algebra I, Part B this Spring 2004 semester."   Walking tall among these heros is Dina West.

April 14, 2004
Pre 8:00 AM       MAT013B Class

      Actually, I'd have to admit Dina doesn't just walk.   Dragging her cart behind her with one hand and juggling her silver coffee thermos mug with the other, usually with a smile on her face, Dina arrives attractive and well dressed and ready for hard work.   As I socialize with students and set up the Nomad (with internet connection & video display for notes of this and past classes) her cart bounces gently behind me over cable and cord to the right side of the room where students who've decided they need more quiet sit.   Those with medium quiet needs sit in the center.   Those whose stress level is, in my opinion, decreased by a slightly increased noise level sit on my left as I, in the center, seated at the Nomad face the class.   All student are required to talk once pencil & paper work is completed or to assistance others who need help on their work.   All students must interact.   The quiet zones refer to the murmur level.   "Learning disabled" students sit in each area of the room.   Students depend on and assist each other, and, in this way Dina is a leader also.   Always cheerful and helpful, she seeks help and offers help.   I consider her ability to recognize when a difficulty exists a strength.   Many days Dina has this strength.   Some days she does not.   When she does she can often identify where another student who does not or has missed the point and then clarify that point.   The identifying and clarifying are great strengths.

8:00 - 8:55 AM       MAT013B Class

      It's the last class before the last test of the semester.   Dina's chosen this class because it meets for one hour rather than the Monday-Wednesday 2-hour class even though she feels she performs better in the afternoon than in the morning, even though her commute from Mountainside 4 day a week for this class is more than some students could manage, and she's done this because she knows here attention span in math is short and the shorter class makes math manageable.   Her attendance and attitude are excellent.

9:05 - 9:30 AM       Office Hour

      Dina takes a quiz.   B one of 5, with 4 or 5 questions, requiring a perfect paper for completion.   She has completed 2.

      Doesn't sound impressive to you?

      Is it difficult?

      It's really not.

      The first quiz covered only material taught in part A of Algebra I.

      For students who did well in part A, a perfect paper is achieved on the first or second try. For the more challenged, the task is harder. Seven, in her class of 21, have completed the first quiz and 9 the second. Dina has completed both.

      On a good day she can see the difference between “Solve x2 + 5x + 6 = 0" and “Factor x2 + 5x + 6." On a bad day or one with very high stress or at a time when there is too much background noise or a tempting conversations nearby, even with a calculator, it is simply not possible for her to complete a quiz perfectly. This is part of her “disability” and hero Dina West does not let it defeat her. It took her 10 tries to achieve full credit on the first quiz, but, she achieved her goal!

      Though Dina’s quiz today was not perfect, and against my advise, Dina wishes to take the test at 2 pm today rather than tomorrow. It’s not a good day.

10:305 - 12:20 AM       Office Hour

      Rather than another quiz, Dina works with other students on problems for the systems test. Here, too, she works well, advocates for others, shares and refers to class notes, helps, and leads as, I am sure she does in her work as a Project Connections “Leader.”

2:00 - 3:55 AM       MAT013B Class

      After half an hour some students have completed both pages of the test below.

      Page 2 was given first. [The reader may click on the graphics to see enlargements.]

      Dina and many others continue work. An hour and a half later most, but not all, are gone. Dina is the last to hand in the last page – 1 hour 40 minutes after she had begun the test.

      Her grade won’t be known until all other papers are also graded, but, her performance this day and each day mark her well as a hero, a hero among heros.

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