Still slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community for Day Twenty-Three of Thirty-One of the Slice of Life Challenge in March.
Eight Days To Go!
As you can easily see, years ago the "me I used to be" was a first-grade teacher. This was the sixth class of first graders I had taught, two years each in three different cities. I took over a first grade class a few years later when the principal of this school called me with an emergency because the teacher was very ill. That was my final class for a long time until we moved to Colorado. This is the year my son was born, and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with him.
I've erased the school's name for privacy issues. This is the class where I feel that I really became a teacher. Aren't they sweet! It was so long ago that there was no extra resources to help teachers, no school library, just me. It was a small class because these were children that didn't quite make it out of kindergarten, but no one wanted them in their first-grade classes either. It was called a "transition" class. This is what I learned:
That kindness and creative responses help upset children. And when one upset child is helped, the rest of the children become calmer too, and can learn. That extraordinary gestures can effect change.
*One of these children sat on my lap nearly all the first month. She was shy and scared and came every day, rarely cried, but insisted that my lap would be her chair. When I had to stand up, she sat and waited for me to return. When she did hand work, she did it at a little desk by my desk.
*Another child I now realize was emotionally out of control, and needed help. He acted out numerous times in the day, threw things at others, smeared his saliva on himself, and tried to do that to his classmates, too. He spent most of the day in a chair and small desk by me (opposite the student above), and I kept a bucket of warm water and a washcloth for him. I found that if I washed his face occasionally, it helped to calm him down. And, he became my helper often. He arranged books, sorted pens and pencils, wrote names for nametags (Yes, he was already liiteate.) I did what I needed to keep him calm and from hurting others.
*All of the children learned to read by the end of the year. I wish I had a picture, but I created a long timeline that gave tiny prizes for every two books they read. I drew the kids as little stick figures, took their pictures and cut out the heads, pasted them on the figures. These figures "marched along" the timeline that was "the path to reading", and they read PLUS gathered little rewards: a piece of candy, sitting at my desk for an afternoon, a flower to take home (I always had flowers on my desk.) and so on. When they completed the path that followed the alphabet (52 books), I gave them their own book.
*I do remember having a lot of easy reader books. And I read aloud often. I can only remember reading Milne's Winnie-The-Pooh, and many picture books. I "soaked" them in books. I suppose I am lucky that I've always been such a reader. Reading was a salve for each of these children. We created puppet shows sometimes from the stories.
*I have lots of memories from this class, and you won't be surprised when I tell you that I took them outside often. We walked and marched and examined things like grass and flowers and trees. I regret that I never thought of having them journal about what they noticed. Now I know that even the youngest students can capture observations in pictures and words.
I did love teaching the little ones. As my own children grew up, I became more interested in teaching older kids, thus when I did return to teaching, I fell in love with those middle-schoolers, and can privately find some parallels. If you know both groups, you probably understand. However, part of that first grade teacher "me I used to be" will always stay.