Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Be Nice and Mind Your Own Business"

This past week I was the "guest teacher" in three different classrooms and levels. It was only a four-day week and one of the classes was two, half-days. It was a week of contrasts and some challenges.

My first assignment was my most familiar Kindergarten as the P.M. part of a "well-oiled" Team. These professional teachers have it down. The organization is all there and the kids are truly benefitting from it. I can see growth since the beginning for the year. The major assignment for both groups of 20 was to make a folded display of their traced (and cut out) hands, colored differently and touching when you folded them together. In the middle of this was their own written words on, "What they wanted to do to help others" like Martin Luther King Jr. did. We had "primed the pump" with stories and songs about him and his life. Most of them got it, even if it was just to "help" give their dog a bath. One little girl's father came to visit our table and help his daughter with the cutting and writing of it all. This was really good to see since the last time I was there she was "having a tantrum" (pretty regularly) toward the end of the period. He complimented her greatly and complemented her too. He had her write that "she" wanted to be an "asternot" and he apologized for his lack of "spelling skill". I resisted the temptation to correct it or him, but effusively praised him and her. I'm pretty certain that this was part of the solution suggested for her by her regular teachers and it would work better if he came when he could hear the assignment and then understand how to help her, besides just keeping her from "going off" on her peers when she wasn't getting her way. This is definitely a "rubric" that more kids need i.e. regular visits and help from their parents.

My next assignment was at a 5th grade class in a portable next to the parking lot of a different school. The emphasis at this school is, across the boards "WE ARE COLLEGE BOUND!" and they let you know it. It is all over on bulletin boards and even in their early morning, shouted chants and cheers before they even enter the classrooms. They seem to do it for each other as encouragement and reassurance. I noticed "Biola University" is centrally featured near the office where everyone has to pass. The young teacher I was replacing had pendants from UCLA around the room. I decided not to mention that I had gone to USC. This class was also working on their own essays on MLKjr. I tried to help with that. I told them about my sitting behind Coretta Scott King in church and one girl shared that her grandfather, still living with her, was hit by fire hoses in Birmingham. I also mentioned the "Blue Eye Experiments in Discrimination" and the "Evil Eye" (glass blue eye) I had in my pocket (bought in Turkey). They had an hour-long video after lunch to reinforce all that he taught and what we want to remember about him. Unfortunately I had two boys who had other "ideas" of what they were going to do at school with a "sub" It started by not getting along with the boy seated between them. (they were all Anglo and Hispanic) So, I moved them and separated them so they could "work" better. Soon they were moving themselves to other unoccupied desks and stll not trying to do their work. The one that was back-talking the most and bullying others was finally asked to leave. It is called "a referral" to the office. Soon the principal called for clarification of the offenses and asked me to send his remaining work. Later on I saw he had been placed in another teacher's 5th grade class. She had offered earlier to take "any students who gave me trouble" since she had "three empty desks" just waiting for them and "they didn't like it in her room". She also led the P.E. for the grade level at 8:15 A.M. i.e. calesthentics and four laps around the large field..."that'll tire them out." "These kids now days are so out of shape."

My third assignment was actually two half days at a Second grade in a portable way out in "left field" on a gigantic campus dedicated to Second through fourth only. I went early and ate lunch with the teacher and kids which is what they do there. I enjoyed it. They announce contest winners and awards during these luncheon sessions in a large multipurpose room. The principal came well recommended by my first of the week team leader. "He's so nice." The room and teacher of this second grade were a "breath of fresh air" for me. First of all, as you walk in the door, the "class rules" are posted. This is not unusual. There is usually a long list of do's and mainly don'ts in every elementary classroom. This one, however, only had two, hand printed, "BE NICE" #1 and "MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS" #2. That was all that was needed they felt. I began to see why and what was the difference at this young age, 7 or so. It is so hard for this "age" to do just that. They love to be so "officious" and "rule-reminding" to each other and to their teacher. These kids were actually practicing these rules with some degree of success. It must be their teacher, I thought. I had met her. She gave me candy treats. She was very open to "new ideas" and even some of mine. She was reading "Sadako" a thousand cranes - to her class and had them drawing their responses to each chapter with sentences too. This is the story of the survivors of the Hiroshima Bombings. Pretty heavy stuff for second graders. She planned to challenge them to make 1000 origami cranes of happiness. We had fun with "The Magic Penny" Song and game, "Frere Jacques" as a "round" with a student leader, "Mr. Fox" song and story theater with masks, "Twenty Questions" and "Silent Ball" They loved it all. It was raining outside. RRR

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