Wednesday, May 30, 2007

end of year reflection

I was talking with a coworker today and in our conversation I began to realize how far some of my kids have come this year. It can be so hard to remember that they have progressed, especially when the kiddos have the spring-jitters and don't seem to be able to sit still for more than 2 minutes.

The nature of first grade is that they walk in the door in august as babies. Developmentally they struggle to sit still and keep their hands and feet to themselves. Some don't know their letters and few can read. (Though this is changing as kindergarten curriculum changes). By June they are ready for second grade. They are old! And tall! And like to work for extended periods of time. They like to work alone and suddenly they care about what their work looks like. I read somewhere that first grade has the biggest developmental growth of any grades.

It wasn't until I was talking to my coworker that I started remembering some of the characters that walked in my door in August. One little girl spent most of her time under a table or rolling on the floor. She struggled to be in control of her body and frequently would be engaged in an activity and then seconds later would be on the floor, rolling. She kept her head down in reading group and in math group and refused to work. Even getting her to color a paper could take me hours. She rarely came to school on time, if she came at all.
Now she walks in on time. She is smiling and stands tall. She looks happy to be in school. I can't remember the last time she crawled under a table. Or refused to work for me. She's excited to come to groups now and is ready to work. She even participates in group discussions. I am not sure she participated once before Christmas. She holds books like they are teddy bears, clutching them under her arm as though hugging it will put her in the story.

Of course, without reflecting on this it is easy to see everything that is wrong with her behavior now. Sometimes I watch her and become frustrated with myself for not getting her further. Why can't she stay in one place on the rug? I forget that keeping her on the rug use to be impossible. Why can't she raise her hand? I forget she use to not want to talk to me. Why does she walk backwards with her eyes closed in the hallway? Because she's doing the tooty-ta, which she learned in school. She's smiling, and it honestly looks like she is happy for a moment. i'm not sure we saw her smile in the beginning of the year.
I need to work on being proud of her for how far she's come, and not frustrated with myself.

If I can remember her progress I might to able to make it through the next few weeks...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Teachable Moments

Recently I've been writing to reflect on my year in first grade. This is possibly my favorite incident of the entire year and worthy of sharing.

One day during math centers a boy began to yell, "Miss L, this girl has an egg". Assuming it was some plastic egg the girl had brought from home I reminded the yeller that we don’t yell across the classroom. “Write me a note and tell me” I responded, going back to teaching my guided math group. The next thing I know kids are screaming. I look up to find the girl holding a broken egg shell colored in purple crayon.
“What happened???” I asked, flabbergasted that yellow yoke was running down the girl's arm and onto the table. “Why is there egg on the table?”
“Where’s the baby chicken, Miss L?” she asked, tipping the shell so that all of the yoke fell onto the table. “I don’t see the baby chicken. I broke it to see the baby chicken!!”
“Baby chicken!?” another boy yelled, running over to the table and smearing his hands in the yellow yoke. “Where?”
I stood there dumbfounded. In the middle of math workshop, totally away from any cooking supplies or groceries, someone had managed to break an egg on top of the table. A real egg. With yoke now oozing on two children’s hands.
“Miss L!! Eggs come from the farm. They come from big chickens!” someone yelled wildly, waving his yoke-covered hands.
After getting the egg cleaned up and making sure the egg-cuplrit understood she would spend her recess scrubbing the table, we had a mini-economics lesson to discover how the egg made it from the mother chicken to our math workshop. One girl explained it concisely, “Miss L. The farmer gave the eggs to the grocery store. Her mom bought the eggs at the store and put them in the refrigerator. She took it out of the refrigerator and put it in her bookbag. Then she brought it to school”. If nothing else we learned:
1) Raw eggs can make you sick so you have to clean really, really well.
2) Breaking an egg does not = a cute chick.
3) The story of how an egg goes from a chicken to the table, even if it is the math table.

To this day I have no idea how the egg made it all the way to school in her bookbag without breaking, nor how she was able to sneak the egg out of her book bag and break it during math.

This so would not have happened to me if I'd gone to law school.

"Look at me because I'm pretty"

A note I found on the floor of my first grade classroom. I can't figure out who it belongs to or who it was written to. I gave it to my husband and put it on our fridge, just in case he needs a reminder.
At least the author used the word wall for because AND she correctly wrote I'm.

law school

During my first year teaching I was green with envy of my friends in law school. While I listened to them complain about late-night studying, brutal professors, the large amounts of reading and the enormous amount of stress they were under, I tried to keep my eyes open, wondering how anyone could stay awake past 8 o’clock. I had finished a tiring day of teaching and had another one tomorrow. What I would give to stay up in the computer lab, pull an all-nighter and be able to sit in class, absorbing information, working as hard as I could knowing on the other end was a good paying job. That could have been me, I would think, adding another sticker to a math test. I could be surrounded by intellectuals, debating current social norms and dreaming of my future. I could be getting feedback on papers, knowing that if I worked hard I would get good grades. Instead here I was, falling asleep, purple marker on my arm, wondering how to teach Juan to read in English when he couldn’t speak it, and figuring out how to live on a teacher salary in an expensive city.
I believed in the public schools, I believed in my kids and I believed in my own ability to keep my head above water even when I thought I was going to sink. I made it through, every year getting a little easier, every year being a little less jealous. By my fourth year of teaching my law school friends were now lawyers entering the ‘real world’ for the first time. They were experiencing what it was like to work late hours for little rewards and trying to fit a social life into a demanding work schedule. I smile as I listen to them complain and felt sorry for them because at the end of the day they might get a large paycheck, but they will never get a hug from Rosa and a thank you note in broken English, thanking you for teaching her to read.