Saturday, October 13, 2007

What was new again.

This week I finally had the opportunity to work at this district's oldest school twice. Then I ended the week by working at its newest school. Comparisons and contrasts follow here.
First of all the setting for the oldest school was tree-lined and I mean big, old peppers. Beautiful. It is also on a divide city lane that is being widened. It was hard to park around the school what with all the drop off traffic and buses. First I was placed in a portable 1st grade. No problem except that the cooler weather had triggered the heater and it was too hot and humid in the room. I called for the custodian and we opened some windows until the district A/C men could be called. The other problem? was that this very neat and organized teacher had placed those plug-in room deodorizers all around the room and it was overwhelming at first...sort of a pine scent. Other than that, we had alot of fun with two switches AM and PM with other classes to make an effort at individualization. In the AM, I had two aides who came in and took small groups of 5 or 6 without a word to me about what or who. They seemed to know what they were doing. We did phonics analysis and primer reading together and I, for the first time, cracked out my "penlight" for highlighting the syllables, blends and sounds. It helped to focus these easily distractible 6 year olds. We also reinforced with mucho Espanol. I taught the rhymes I remembered for "la semana" etc.
This group also seemed very well adjusted to the program and knew/corrected me when I strayed creatively. They did like our song we made up, sang and memorized about the school. This is my signature move now at all the elementaries I attend/sub. This one was done to the tune of the "B-I-N-G-O" song with the name of the school spelled out. They loved it with the hand claps. We even had a scheduled P.E. i.e. run around the track for 10 mins. (I walked with them, "but teacher, you stay back there and watch us..." that would be no fun) Then the rest of the time on the new, jungle jim. I was impressed with this teacher's organization and use of chant for learning.
The next half day I was in the old wing of this old school. This was a much bigger room with a higher ceiling. This was a third grade and much more capable. I was warned about certain boy students but had no trouble and used their energy. One was a continuously sketching artist and gave me several drawings. This teacher, a L.A. mentor in the district, was very open to me doing my music and things and she had scheduled the weekly "music teacher" to come in for 40 mins. and work with their "flut-a-phones", actually small "recorders" in plastic bags. I was jazzed because I always bring mine in my uke case. Not to fast there...she, the "music teacher," had planned a "test" w/o names to see what they had retained about the "notation" of music. They hadn't learned the finger positions for more than 4 notes on the instruments and she was checking their comprehension/memory of "Every Good Boy Does Fine and F A C E" the lines and spaces of the treble cleft. She also wanted to know if they knew the whole note and the half note in writing, not in practice. She was very serious and emitted "no joy" in the process. She told me she had over 200 students in the district like this and went from class to class as a former "orchestra teacher" The kids were so disappointed they didn't get to play their tooters so after she left, we did. I played BINGO for them and they realized they hadn't learned those fingers yet. The music teacher was not open to any of my suggestions, which were few and in the form of questions. So my wish/dream that more music be taught in the schools again, was somehow tarnished and diminished with the introduction of her and her methods. Too bad.
Then, I finally got an invitation to the newest school (elementary) in the district, just opened this year. The floor plan was almost an exact copy of three other newer school in the district. However, this school had a big grass field on a lower level that the kids were actually allowed to use, even during recess. This first grade teacher was also testing and only needed me for half day. She lived in the area where the school was and was very enthusiastic about the school, the area etc. Her kids were darling and so helpful with the routines. They loved to tattle on each other and we worked on that, as ususal. What was new, unique and very educational about this teacher's regular routine was that so much of her early phonics and phonetics drill and trainings was not only chanted but "danced to" and "cheered to" The kids were really into it and taught me alot. The girls were better at it and took the lead. They also enjoyed helping me make up a new "School Song" for them to the tune of "This Land is Your Land". It just fit syllable-wise. This room, obviously had all the "modern conveniences" and computers, electronics etc. and yet she was going back to "kinesthetic learning modalities" Kudoes to her. I'd like to see more of this with this aged child. Muscle memory is so much a part of what we retain...even in Language Arts. RRR

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