Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#SOL17 - 23/31 The Me I Used To Be



SOLC #23/31 - 
      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.

24 comments:

  1. This is beautiful. I am so glad those children had someone kind and willing to think creatively about how to reach them. I'm only a few years younger than those little ones, and remember my kindergarten and first grade teachers with such fondness. Your resources and training must have been so different than what we have now, but I also wonder if you had more freedom or independence to "rule your kingdom" as you saw fit?

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  2. Linda, I love this insight into the me you used to be. What great fun sharing with us your early days as a teacher. Your kindness shines in this short piece and I see where your flowers in your home tradition came from. I was also delighted with your path to reading activity that really engaged your little ones. Have a wonderful week.

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  3. This is a great memory! THank you for sharing it and adding in the picture. that really brings even more life to the post.

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  4. This is such a sweet post. LOVE the short dresses and "old school" feel of that picture. I too started in first grade and I too remember "pre 1st or transition classes." Thanks for the trip back in time.

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  5. The image is very intriguing, but your insights are magical. This is the beauty of writing -- the remembering in the reflection that grounds who we are today.
    Kevin

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  6. Oh those faces!!! I love how many stories you recall from this group. Thank you for sharing these precious stories and students with us.

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  7. I look forward to these Thursday trips down your memory lane. I hope you will continue this on Thursdays after the challenge.

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  8. The image of the child waiting for you to return and sitting in a little desk beside yours is so telling. I have contended often that teaching is largely about love. This is what the pundits and for profit companies don't understand. We do this because of love.

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  9. I love this. What a gift you gave these children.

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  10. What a caring person you are! Those children were so lucky to have you in their lives. And thanks for the idea of "the me I used to be." I may just have to borrow that bit of inspiration!

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  11. I love the "Me I Used to Be" idea. So fun to see who you were

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  12. I'm always happy to see your Thursday posts. Love this pic of you (how could have already been teaching six years? You look so young!) and your first graders. And of course, the stories that you recall from that year. I love the dresses on the little girls, but also remember how cold it was when we had to wear dresses to school. Glad that has changed! Keep the stories coming.

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  13. What a beautiful flashback to share with us! What an adorable picture! I think some of my clearest memories about teaching come from that first, fateful year. Perhaps it is indelible? We simply don't know what we are doing! (To some extent.) Fabulous!

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  14. If we only knew then what we know now, right? It was a challenging class, but you met them where they were. Love the picture!

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  15. Wow. Amazing that your memories are so strong and specific. How these children needed you and how you were absolutely what they needed you to be! You were certainly their teacher!

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  16. Love this glimpse into your early teaching life. You knew what your students needed and gave it to them enabling them to learn and the entire class to move forward,

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  17. How lucky those children were to spend a magical year with you, Linda! Your memories make me wish I had my own classroom again. Thank you for sharing!

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  18. Oh, I love this! I was intrigued by your title, and when I saw the picture, I just smiled. You treated each child and their needs with such tenderness and heart - no wonder they thrived and learned. I may have to borrow/steal your title and try this kind of slice.

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  19. What sweet little cuties! I was an aide in a first classroom for several years before I became a teacher. That is the grade I thought I wanted to teach. But now that I teach middle schoolers, I don't think I could go back down. What a beautiful memory for you!

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  20. Thanks, everyone. It was such a full day that I couldn't reply to each today. As for Wendy's comment (1st), yes, I had all the freedom I wanted in those days, but that also means I had no support. It may still happen, but this was the class that sadly the other teachers filled with kids no one wanted to deal with, hence the name "transition". I've described a few challenges only, but there were others. Yet, as someone was surprised I remembered so much, this is the class I most remember. When they shone, they really, really shone! Our celebrations were many and hard won. It was a truly special class. And yes, I'm glad that eventually I could stop wearing dresses and nylons, still crawling about the room like primary teachers do. Crazy!

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  21. In my first class, it was "just me," too. Last year I was in a first grade class doing observations when there was a major disruption. In the midst of it, a little girl came over to me and climbed into my lap with tears running down her cheeks. She didn't say a thing and I let her sit there as I was not able to help in any other way. Made my heart hurt for her! Your class was special because you are special!

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    1. Thanks, Alice. I imagine you helped by doing just what you described. It's hard on the young ones when they're upset and don't have their parents to cuddle them!

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  22. The photo of you and your class is so precious.
    What was going on in your room was love.

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    1. I think so, too, Loralee. This was a special group. Thank you!

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