Saturday, March 21, 2009

An Irish Blessing

May the road rise to meet you;
May the wind be always at your back;
May the sun shine warm...upon your face;
May the rain fall soft upon your fields'
And until we meet again,
May He hold you in His Hand,
May God hold you...
May He hold you in the palm of his Hand.

I just spent a whole week subbing in a very needy first grade. My hat is off to their regular teacher. She definitely needs an Irish Blessing. I agreed to take the class for a whole week a few months ago as a favor. Little did I know then what this class has been through. It is just full (20) of sweet and challenging 7 and 8 year olds. There is a whole range of problems they are having and yet there are some outstanding (and typical) students. I was just told yesterday, Friday, that this class had been abandoned by their original teacher at the beginning of the school year and had had a series of subs until their latest teacher, a young and very organized teacher, had consented to stay. However, now she has gotten her "pink slip" and probably won't be coming back. She had been given a week of "training", I think, as a consolation or a preparation for another level or district. What a shame. I haven't been in a better, neater organized class. The prep she had done for my lessons was extraordinary. I only hope I did her justice and my best as I plowed through almost every "rubric". Of course I added my own little "touches" musically and dramatically to make it fun for them...and for me.
Here are some "high lights" (and low lights) from the preceeding week:
  • St. Patrict's Day on Tuesday meant that we had to have lots of Irish music and fun. We sang, heard or learned: "Cockles and Mussels" (acted it out-they loved being the "wheelbarrow", "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" (sang, practiced two ways of smiling), "The Happy Wanderer" (German, see previous post, but we had sing/act it out), "Here Comes the Sun" (the Beatles would've loved our rendition), "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" (done on the actual Vernal Equinox with explanations about Spring, 12/12 of light/dark),"What A Wonderful World" (Louis Armstrong would be proud of our take on it), "Over in the Meadow" (a counting song, they loved it)
  • The Reading/Social Studies Theme for the week was "Recycling, Planting" so we had something to read or write about that everyday. We had a too long, all-school,assembly of rapid slides about recycling sponsored by the City's Mayor Pro-Tem. We called attention to the "New School Garden" being started by the Principal with railroad ties. A good plan, I tried to offer some advice, having done that for 5 years at my retirement school. Nope. Two of my "hyper-kinesthetic" kids got in trouble from another teacher when they were caught balancing on the 3' tie walls to and from running the attendance into the office (a long and tempting trip from the back 40 where the classroom is located) Next time I'll sing the "Garden Song" and "Anti-Garden Song" with them.
  • Language Enrichment/Gross Motor Coordination...which they desperately needed, brought out my creative side. I had one day, Wednesday, after I noticed they were all-over the room knocking over baskets of desk supplies, of "balancing on blue-tape (on the floor) lines. We connected it to Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Places You'll Go" and my favorite part, "...Life's a Great Balancing Act..." This was a real challenge for walk only on the lines to and from their desks. We added the imagery of "Hot Lava/Alligator Pits" if you fell off the lines. Then "you were a "ghost" until the next recess. One kid was very concerned to get his name off the board-ghost-list. It sure calmed and slowed them down for a day.
  • In honor of St. Patty's Day, we challenged them to find larger shamrocks and 4-leaf clovers at recess in their massive grass playgound. We sang "...I'm looking over a 4-leaf clover..." The prize for the largest shamrock (no 4-leaf's were found) was a little paperbag puppet of a green frog they could make at home. The kid that won, brought it back the next day and he gave us a late-in-the-day puppet show. That gave us the idea to have them write their own puppet plays about recycling as one of their daily writing assignments (must be 5 sentences at least) We had a contest and the top four "playwrights" were given other puppet packets (from Martha Stewart) to take home. They then got to present puppet shows of their own with 15 different hand puppets I brought from my grandkid's stash. What fun we had with that. (Sharks, catfish, Crush, cats, frogs etc.)
  • Most of the math learning was not from the torn-out workbook sheets pre-set for them, but from calculating the "marble points" for the "party marble jar" She runs a "scoreboard" which starts over after each recess based on "student behaviors" vs. "teacher correction time". If the lesson is stopped or distracted by the students the teacher gets a negative point that takes away from the positive reinforcement points the "class" gets for individuals who help each other or the class to learn by the usual helpful behaviors...or catching the teacher in a mistake. Great game, but it takes up alot of time to maintain and calculate. She also has the "green card" reward system and "group points" with hand stamps and stickers at the end of each day. We ended the week with a + 10 for the students so ten marbles were put in the jar toward a party. The jar is almost full.
  • Three boys were the constant challenge and took the most negative time away from the lessons and class. One was finally able to come two day without being tardy (one day a half hour)He doesn't get to sit in a group but has "island" status. He has trouble staying there. He loves to clean up others messes and blame other for the trouble he gets into in class or on the playground(if he even gets recess)He is very frustrated because he can't really read or write yet at this 1st grade level. He was asked to spend a half hour in another classroom on Friday. One boy has some disabilities that cause him to touch everything (mild asbergers?) and make his speech very hard to understand. He bugs the kids (teacher) and knocked off a glass jar of reward "money" and broke it. He sits right next to the front where the regular teacher must spend most of her time. Another boy is so hyper both physically and verbally that he gets himself into all kinds of trouble. He is smart and gets his work done fast and then butts into others with "trying to help them" unrequested. He "has no brakes" and has to have his hand held in line to go anywhere. He pushes and fights with the first boy and they have to be separated.
  • Among the several sweet and extremely quiet Hispanic students is one girl who is a real "firecracker" a good way. She is like a cheerleader in training. She leads the flag salute and songs in the A.M. Dances around the room, especially to my Irish Jig Music in the A.M. before school. She always puts the chairs down. She's a "tom-boy" with more boy "pals" than girls. She writes well and won the puppet-playwrite contest. She also shed the most tears during the week...crying when the first boy above scribbled on her beautifully done writing paper. She laboriously and tearfully erased it though and got top marks. On St. P's day she came dressed all in green and played "Molly Malone" with her "wheelbarrow".

Now you can see why I love doing this "reprise" of my career...especially at this age. They are challenging, eager to learn and "love" you as a "fun teacher". I get an Irish Blessing everyday I go out and teach. RRR

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I forgot two important "rubrics" for 1st graders that are often neglected now days: P.E. and Science. For P.E. they get 45 mins. once a week with a roving P.E. specialist that they meet on the field. He does 1st to 4th. He has a big sun shade hat. He came a-calling and I declined. I did "Silent Ball" with them in the classroom. They loved it with the balloon ball (spelling words) It teaches, taking turns, hand-eye coord. catch and throw and how to lose without crying. In Science, other than the recyling, gardening etc. and the vernal equinox talk we had a visit from my "robot 20Q" who teaches how to ask questions on animal, vegetable and minerals and deductively hypothesize. We also played "I spy, with my little eye..." Fun! RRR