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Are You Smarter Than a 3rd Grader?

At the moment that I was standing in a third-grade classroom for the first time in nine years, not one of the kids made a sound. Then again, they had been finishing their math tests in the last few minutes before recess started. After recess ended and the first few minutes of dismissal had started, I would soon find out that these were some of the most enthusiastic third-graders I have ever met.

Roberts Elementary, the newest of the four elementary schools in the North Gwinnett cluster, opened in 2010, and Susan Asad, who currently teaches 3rd grade, has witnessed its growth in the past seven years, from larger class sizes, new teachers, and new clubs and events. After all, within the 7 years Roberts Elementary has been opened, she has been teaching third grade for the past three years and fifth grade for four years. I can especially attest to that, because she was my 5th grade teacher when Roberts Elementary first opened or as I told her 3rd grade class, a really long time ago!

In her 20 years of teaching, Mrs. Asad has taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, where she also taught advanced math for 5th grade students on the accelerated track, but in her own words, ” each grade comes with its own rewards. From kindergarten to 2nd grade, students are learning to read but in 3rd grade, they are reading to learn. By 5th grade, they have learned how to learn through reading, but now they must become more independent before starting middle school.”
With her insight, it’s easy to assume that she had always intended to teach as a career, but Mrs. Asad graduated from Georgia Tech with the intention to be a journalist because of her love for writing. However, after the birth of her children and seeing their satisfaction as they learned new things, she realized that she wanted to be a teacher-and so she became one!

Out of her many years of experience, however, there are certain moments that have consistently been fulfilling for her as a teacher:

“Witnessing the “aha!” moments is probably the most rewarding part of my job. When a student finally grasps a concept that they’ve really been struggling with, and then one day you see them suddenly put all the pieces together….the look they get on their face says “I can do anything!” Seeing a child come to that realization is so exciting that the feeling you get stays with you for weeks. The other thing I get so excited about is turning kids into book lovers! More students hate reading than those who love it, so I love the challenge of finding something that changes the student’s misconceptions that reading for fun is boring. If I can give them the gift of reading for pleasure, that is something they will have forever.”

Outside of teaching, Mrs. Asad is also one of the coaches for the school’s Readers Rally team, but I wanted to shine a special focus on her classroom activities. When I was in 5th grade, as part of our unit about fractions, my math class, taught by Mrs. Asad, had a special project where we created a recipe for 1000 chocolate chip cookies, which were then sold as fundraising for the Roberts Elementary CARE Team. Though her 3rd graders won’t be doing that this year, in order to incorporate the properties of rocks and minerals with writing narrative stories, Mrs. Asad had given her class a project to create and decorate a pet rock, and write a biography for it, and from what many of her students told me, they had a blast with this project.

Whether it was a rock with pig ears and a tail, hair, mustaches, funny faces, or even a picture of Matt Ryan, I met about 20 3rd graders, all of which with their own rocks and projects to share, and their stories about how they loved third grade and their teacher as well. For Nicolas, his favorite subject was social studies while for Shreya, it was math and for Lilli, she just really liked all of the fun projects that they did, especially when they were able to make “edible soil” from crumbled up Oreos, cookies, and candies. It’s moments like these that continue to make Mrs. Asad excited about teaching-“anytime we make a connection between what we learn in books to how we use it in real life, any activity that we have in class that makes learning exciting and memorable for the students, that makes it exciting for us teachers”. I, like many of her students of years past, can look back at the activities and projects that we did in Mrs. Asad’s class with fond memories. Even from talking to them for just a half-hour, I’m sure that the kids in her 3rd grade class this year can say the same.