Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Tiny Packages

“Good teachers don't approach a child of this age with overzealousness or with destructive conscientiousness. They're not drill-masters in the military or floor managers in a production system. They are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don't yet know what's in the box. They don't know if it's breakable. ” 

As C. jumped out of his chair and half scampered half ran across the room, I shouted in a near shriek, "What went through your head as you ran across the room?? What made you think that was a good idea?!" He retorted with a raspy voice and attitude beyond his 5 years "I don't know." and sauntered with muscle-less legs and arms to the rug where he sat doing nothing until his bus was called. 
Same child who by 10:30am had drawn a yell, "UNBELIEVABLE" from my lips though I was determined to be patient and loving today (and always). He was copying every word his neighbor at my small group table, S. read in the guided reading book. But every word was WRONG and he wasn't even on the same page. REALLY?! 

W. on the other hand had spent the ENTIRE day rattling his own bones, shaking, bouncing, responding to every thing I said, not listening to directions, and a whirling tornado of terror. 

C. ? A ticking time bomb...waiting for him to explode in a fit of rage. 

J? Ok today.... but nonetheless trying. 

the list goes on ... I was not an expert at small packages today, I was a witch tearing through their baggage, their layers of learning, their sleepiness, or even their wonderful 5 year old personalities. They were packages of TNT today - in my defense....but I wasn't gentle, I was chilly and impatient and I hope I am not causing moments that ruin school for W, C, J, angry C, and others.....

B on the other hand? a wonderful transition .... he is new to us - only a week and 1/2 and he has had some tough days but today was not one of them. The transition from a self-contained classroom to our room is certainly exhausting for everyone and it's bundle of differences and situations I am unfamiliar with but it is a learning experience and it's good. 

I decided I had to force myself to reflect on positive so I don't forget why I'm in this...

Ventured into unknown waters this week - real Writer's Workshop ... with no prompt and only the expectation that my students write the whole time, use our writer's rules (finger spaces, lowercase letters, etc) and a functional, usable mini lesson. Results week 1? AMAZING - great quality writing, everyone has something to tell and is doing it effectively. They whined when the timer went off yesterday - actually whined. I was overjoyed!! : ) 
Next step? small groups in writing .... yikes. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

SoyButter Sandwiches

"Our target today is: I can (pause for repeat) tell how to make a soybutter sandwich (pause for repeat)"
"SOYBUTTER YUM!" Is all I heard screamed by a delightful rotund little girl in beads - sitting with her chubby legs out straight in front of her as she leaned against the radiator as if she was in my living room, not on our classroom carpet.
That same little girl was sitting against my leg at a puppet show this morning - arms wrapped around my ankle - and about 15 minutes in she looks up at me giggles and says "This is a puppet show!" Oh yes my friend - welcome to school glad you joined us.... REALLY?!
The things that fly out of her mouth are insanely hilarious. At times we find her in another part of the classroom - hands raised Fiddler on the Roof style, waltzing back and forth and spinning in a circle....and it's as if she's not aware that she should be at her seat or packing up or whatever the rest of the class seems to do just fine without spazzing out!

But the soy butter sandwiches were fun yesterday - they spread it themselves - made a sticky sticky mess of my table ... and ate them - while complaining that they didn't like peanut butter. Oh ok. Good thing it's soy butter.

And now we are writing about it - every day - Yesterday it was the shopping list of what you need - today it was first spread the soy butter on the bread.... tomorrow it will be then spread the jelly.... And Last stick the bread together and eat it! It's cute and though the sentences are scripted together as a class, I'm using it as a teaching point for finger spaces, using only lowercase letters, and keeping words together - because they need that practice without having to worry about their ideas. And it's pretty critical for kids to know how to make peanut butter and jelly ... right?

Tomorrow at recess time I will let only children with a certain attribute have recess - the rest I will leave sitting on the rug. Until they start to get upset.  .... I will have the others clean up recess and pretend as though it's over. We will discuss how they are feeling and read a book about Martin Luther King.  : )
Then I will serve snack only to the friends who didn't get recess and tell the others they don't get snack. Just long enough for them to get upset. Then I'll give everyone snack and a little more recess.
I will repeat the exercise on Tuesday and have them write about it.

I am exhausted and in the hour that this window has been open I have lost my train of thought.....

Sunday, January 08, 2012

And so we push on

January - first full week back begins. I'm unsettled, not tired - though I wish I was.
In the morning the alarm will be rude and loud and I will stumble my way to the shower and through multiple cups of coffee.
Suddenly my little friends have to be pushed - no longer guided gently but gently pushed over the edge. They have to use their wings and probably fall a few times first but suddenly the pressure sinks in, they have to READ, they have to count to 100, they have to WRITE - yikes.
I have to test them - yuck - this month - and I have push myself .... to be consistent, to pay attention, to almost stop enjoying them long enough to get it all done.

Scared the crap out of me. I just want to enjoy their banter, their laughs, their silliness. Sometimes I just have to let go and enjoy it. But this month I have to let go and ignore it.
It is painful.

Monday, October 31, 2011

allow me to introduce myself

tomorrow I introduce hip hop/slam poetry to 16 4 and 5 year olds who will, no doubt, be flying high on sugar and very little sleep.

But today they were sweet ... excited ... bright eyed and grateful as we felt the inside of a pumpkin, decorated mini pumpkins, and ate sugary treats.

I love them. I love the way they hug me when they arrive and hug when they leave. I love that they almost know all their letters - 5 left to introduce....and then review.

I love that I did my first guided reading group today (seems early) and that they did well. Wow. I love how smooth things seem to go ... and how easy it is to be ready for tomorrow now. I love that I wonder at how fast the day goes by. I love my new last name.

I don't love Mondays.

But tomorrow is Tuesday.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Reflections on the New Year (ironically on Rosh Hashanah)

September 2011 – [Year 2]

17 days in and I still can’t believe it. My little friends from last year come by everyday to say hello – causing a slight identity crisis for me and my current students (they use my  maiden name …). My 16 little ones this year  are – well – full of character of course. I lost 1 already, a child with severe autism, an amazing memory, and a mind of her own. Though she was adorable and sweet at times it is a relief – suddenly on Thursday I was able to teach and my para could pull students. Perhaps I should evaluate my approach – if I didn’t have my para and she had to be a one on one what would I do?
The plane is 35,000 feat above farmlands – the sun is blinding and the refreshment of having been home is wonderful. But I recognize the weight of tomorrow in my neck and shoulders and simultaneously am sorry my students don’t have the opportunity to cross the country for a weekend. I am fortunate! I need to look for ways to give them experience without travel.
Here’s who I am thinking about…..

T-from last year, the sparkle in his eye has faded, he is going through the motions of school and is not loving it. He keeps talking about “his classroom” and “his teacher” ad when can he “go back.” It breaks my heart – he can’t possibly think I don’t want him! I take every opportunity I get to check in and to give him a hug and let him know I love him…. I miss him I miss the drive he gave me to give him my all.

This year’s kids – today a few come to mind:
TJ – a troubled little guy with a BIG heart and sweet spirit. He always wants to help me. He decides when he feels like being a learner but frequently decides he will sit and idly scratch or tap with the pencil. Lives with grandma, has no contact with parents but she is wonderful.

CB – a difficult girl, very much like my JD of last year – refuses to do what she should and stubbornly looks at you with her mouth open and tongue hanging out. I have already made it clear to her that I’m not patient and I need to change this.

SW – a loud, busy, and inattentive boy from Jamaica who frequently has long sentences of words I do not understand and with grammatical structures such as “Me have….” “Me go” “Me mom…” and I correct him repeatedly. I have discovered that he cannot sit still so I taught him this week to just wiggle his feet. His mom thinks he’s brilliantly above kindergarten learning – news flash? He is not.

J2 – a DOLL with a quirky grin, a sidewise glance, and a cheery “yep!” anytime you ask him a question. He is on the autism spectrum – but very capable of sitting and listening – just not comprehending, I worry that I will forget about reaching him where he is at – I need to conscientiously work with him at things. He loves “msdfjksjflkjs mommy daddy pizza” and every time we ask open-ended questions, that is his response.

J1 – a feisty, curly-headed little boy who tests me minute by minute throughout the day. On one occasion he repeated every word that came out of my mouth during reader’s workshop …. And when I asked him to stop? He whispered the words under his breath. There have been times when he was bothering his friends’ learning and I had to get in his face to correct the behavior – in response he plugged his little ears and squished his eyes up tight….nice. It’s a really really good thing he is so cute…because it is REALLY hard to not pick him up by his shoulders and shake him! His mom is wonderful and has volunteered to come in sometimes

CJ – a difficult, shy, and rough boy – hard to read but he frequently chooses to not listen even though I know he is capable … need to work on knowing him better.

D – what a funny guy. At times he is studious, on task, handsome, controlled, and ready to go. At other times his focus gives way to rambunctious swinging between tables, scattered running, skipping, sliding across the room, careless attention, mean words, and constant babble. I think he will do fine …. He needs some scaffolding.

I – haha well, this is a kid who is cute but frequently when I glance at him on the rug, his eyelids are inside out and he is sitting staring right back at me. Really? Freak? Then when they’re not inside out, he is cross eyed – on purpose. It’s hard to not laugh. I told him his eyes would get stuck that way. Problem is, his mom warned me that his brother has told him how awful school is and she is worried about him feeling that way…. Lots of pressure. But I still have to tell him what to do sometimes, and I do have to ask him to stop distracting his friends or rocking on the rug.

WORD WALL – yes I am thinking about my kid-height word wall, my attempt to create an interactive experience for my learners and to actually use it….but neglected to think that they might lean on it with their freshly oiled little heads. Result? A grease stain about 2 ft from the bottom. Hmm.

Bookshop – I am amazed by my little “readers” and the 15 minutes they have been able to sustain browsing alone and with friends…’s pretty impressive. This week I will push it to 20 minutes …. And introduce computers.

My class is all 4 years old again – they are predominantly below level – again – and with a few exceptions, do not know letters or concepts about print. This week I will find out their math abilities. I am almost done with DRA – and they are all below A so far. I did kind of ask for it….

side note just stretched and discovered the tiny little sparkles my ring throws on the wall of the plane – became very amused and it struck me that my kids would probably do the same thing

Those are the kids that come to mind – those and the ones from last year that come in EVERY DAY – Miranda, Katrina, Tashaya, Terence – little voices and faces from the door that make me smile and remember – YES I love this and they love me! It is exciting and encouraging)

With a full week ahead, I am excited to see some consistency and independence appear … .I have to say these past 3 weeks have been relatively painful – the first 2 more so, the kids couldn’t even sit criss cross and I forgot just how little gets accomplished. But they’re getting there.

All for now – needed to reflect because I appreciate going back to read what I wrote this time last year – the days of T running across tables, chasing him around the school, my principal chasing him down the street…. The moments I cried in and out of school – so far only 1 afternoon of tears this year, much of what is happening is familiar and while nothing is exactly the same, it is not all brand new and I appreciate walking into my room and knowing what needs to happen and what the kids need to look like when they leave me in June.…..And the confidence that they will get there.