He knew it cold. He knew it backwards, forwards, and inside out. He even knew a couple words of it in Korean.
I pulled the master aside to talk to him privately, asking one of the instructors to translate.
“Benjamin is a good boy. A good, good boy. He tries hard, and he really wants to please you. And he is smart. But he is slower than other children when you ask him a question. It takes longer for it to go in and for him to answer.” The master, who had understood up till this point, turned to the instructor whose English is far better. I waited as he translated. Then I went on.
“He has worked hard to know ‘The Easy Way is No Way.’ But if you ask him with another child, he won’t be able to answer as fast as the other kids. He will get frustrated and give up.” By this point, I was starting to tear up. “Please, please, test him alone. I just want him to understand that he is as smart as his brother is.”
The master nodded and said something slowly in Korean. The instructor translated. “He understands and agrees with you. But sometimes he thinks it’s good for children to learn from their mistakes.”
“But it wasn’t his mistake! He knew it. It was his brother’s mistake.”
The master nodded again and replied to me himself. “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of it.”
The instructor gave Ben a practice run during the lesson. Then, when the lesson was over, they sent him out to me. He began to whimper. “What’s wrong?” asked the master.
“I want a tiger patch,” Ben said.
The master, clearly having forgotten to test him, called him back in. Fabulous. Get him upset, then test him. He began strong, but as the questions went on, his voice got softer and softer. He had just been asked these questions so many times – at home, last lesson, during this lesson – and still no one had given him a tiger patch. Why should he trust that he wouldn’t be sent out of this lesson empty-handed, too?
He is slower to process questions than his peers. We’ve suspected this for a long time. He is not just one of those people who thinks things through first. In fact, he tends to do and think at exactly the same time. When in a group, he is fully a part of the conversation, unless it is a Socratic question/answer situation. Then, he takes so long to process the question that the lesson has moved on without him and he gives up.
But he didn’t give up this time. And now he has a tiger patch.