A Circle Is Round
It was the second week of Kindergarten and our class was making construction paper farms. Mrs. Gall* had laid out red, green, and brown rectangles and white squares for us to use, along with the large blue paper that we were to use as our background. Our only other supplies were tiny Fiskars scissors and Elmer’s glue sticks. We made our projects together as Mrs. Gall stood at the front of the room and dictated what to do.
“Now, pick up the red piece of paper and put glue on one side.” Mrs. Gall said, demonstrating her immense crafting knowledge as she tried to apply the glue whilst holding the paper up. “After you’ve put the glue on, place the red paper in the bottom center of the blue paper, long side up.” She held up her paper as she walked around the classroom, sighing at the children who did not follow her instructions and taking their projects away, handing them fresh papers. “This time, do exactly as I show you.” she would say. My five year old peers would shrug their shoulders and start over, hoping they wouldn’t be reprimanded again.
We continued to glue small pieces of paper to our large piece of paper, when the final step came: applying circular windows to our farm. Mrs. Gall stood tall in front of the class as she held up a white, square piece of paper.
“Finally, we are going to cut the paper into a circle.” Mrs. Gall started, “Take your white square piece of paper and cut each of the corners off. After you’ve done that, you will be left with eight points. Take your scissors and round off so there are no sharp corners and you will have a circle.”
I took my own square piece of paper and started turning it in my hand opposite of the scissors. I made one a one motion cut and was left with a perfect (in five year old standards) circle that would have absolutely fit through a shape-sorter hole. Proud of my accomplishment, I showed the circle to all of my tablemates before it was swooped out of my hands. I believed that Mrs. Gall was going to show the class my perfect circle and commend me for my clearly genius-like abilities in arts and crafts, but instead, I got scolded.
“Lucy, that is not how you make a circle.” Mrs. Gall said.
She crumpled my circle up and handed me another white square piece.
“Just cut the corners off and round them like I showed you before.” Mrs. Gall said.
I stared directly at her in disbelief. My five year old mind was racing. I was raised to believe that circles had no edges, but here my college-educated teacher was, insisting that they had four. I was conflicted because for the first time in my educational career, I was questioning my own knowledge and the credibility of the woman who had direct control over shaping my, and twenty other kids, view on how the world worked. Eventually, I gave in to the incorrect orders, and finished the farm picture to Mrs. Gall’s instruction, though I cut a corner off another piece in protest.
Now, I understand Mrs.Gall’s anxiety about 20-some Kindergarteners using scissors partially unsupervised. I could not imagine embarrassment of explaining to the principal, school nurse, and angry parents why there was tiny people’s finger blood everywhere because they were trying to cut circles, but this experience still left a bad taste in my mouth. Even fourteen years later, I still take everything I hear with a grain of salt.
*Mrs. Gall is a pseudonym. I’m sure she has since figured out that a circle is a round plane whose boundary consists of points equidistant from the center and not a rounded square. I figured I would spare her the embarrassment for the purpose of this essay.