posts tagged with 'teaching'

transition period

Circumstances have recently led to an end, temporary or more, of my substituting career. I closed out my year in the public schools on Monday, and I was looking forward to getting one last chance to spend time with a school population that I know pretty well: I've spent at least a couple days a week working in the one particular school for six years. On Monday I was in the library.

While I did get to say hi to lots of kids in the halls, and share books with three first grade classes and a kindergarten, for the most part my services were needed to keep the work of the library going. The not-being-with-kids kind of work, like changing books' spine labels and pulling collections of Caldecott winners. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I showed up to be confronted with a list of seven or eight significant tasks... "and if you finish those, there's always shelf reading!"

I knew I wouldn't finish (though I think I acquitted myself pretty well for a non-professional!). In that, it was a lot like the rest of my life: both at home and in my new role at the church I feel like every day brings a near-endless array of things to accomplish. I've even taken to keeping to-do lists—by no means typical behavior for me! On the positive side, it's nice not to be bored or to be casting around for something to work on; but on the other hand, having all but the most transitory sense of accomplishment denied me is a little frustrating.

But that's the way of things these days. Almost-Christmas time. And while I was a little disappointed not to get more kid time Monday—I like subbing because I like teaching kids—there are lots of advantages to our new schedule too. Like more time with my own boys, and the farm-school co-op! I just need to enroll some more students... know anyone who might be interested.


more than one roof

I spent most of today in a first grade classroom, and one of the things I helped the kids with was developing a programmatic understanding of pluralization in English. You know, s after most words; when a word ends with consonant-y "drop the y and add ies"; and the rule for when you need to add es. The style in schools now is to teach things like that explicitly, which is fine—there was a penguin on the printed sheet to provide a minimal amount of fun, and I don't think anyone felt their time was too much wasted. But in real life, pluralization is pretty automatic (see "wug test"). We don't really need to remember that es follows x, s, or ch... it just seems to make sense.

Of course, we learn those patterns automatically as young people, and it's possible for language learners to overgeneralize. Zion does! And when I think about it, I totally agree with him. He hears "batches" and thinks, fine, how about "pathes"? And if th, why not f as well? I'm a big fan of "roofes" (pronounced roofiz), which I think is yards better than the current confusion. Is it "roofs"? "rooves"? Horses have "hooves", right? Hmm, what was that I said about automatic pluralization? I take it all back. Can I have some direct instruction please?


solid, liquid, or gas?

Create a quiz!

We're working on states of matter. It's tedious to come up with worksheets and quizzes—so hard to think of examples of even solids when you're on the spot!—so I automated the process. Any suggestions as to items that might be added—especially gasses that might be familiar to early elementary students—very welcome in the comments.

come and visit the tundra

Instead of writing a blog post today I made this (pdf link). Download it, print it out, and spread the word about the beauties of the tundra!

I actually really want to write this book

A couple of my students have been assigned Hernán Cortés (or Fernando Cortez, if you prefer) for a research project on explorers. Unfortunately, the available text reads as follows:

Cortéz was an explorer for Spain. Cortéz wanted gold. The Native people had gold. Cortéz fought the Native people. Cortéz became leader of Mexico.

Yeah, that's one way to put it.

It makes me wonder why there aren't easy-to-read history texts about, say, Lenin. Wouldn't that be awesome?! Morally ambiguous historical characters whose activities are, in retrospect, entirely unforgivable, but who nonetheless are remembered heroically for various reasons, reduced to simplistic caricatures.

Lenin wanted to change Russia. Lenin became the leader of Russia. Some people didn't want Lenin to change Russia. Those people were class enemies.

Too complicated?

Not that I mean to compare Cortés with Lenin: Cortés was obviously much worse. He wasn't even an explorer! A kind-of state-sponsored bandit at best. Oh, it's going to be fun writing this report!


fifth graders

I always laugh when I hear, as I do at least once a day, someone tell fifth-grade students that they need to do something "like a fifth grader." Teachers, specialists, special educators: all are guilty of this easy rhetorical maneuver. Only problem is it's completely ridiculous. It's generally deployed when the adult in question is faced with large groups of rambunctious children; even when it's addressed to an individual the wider context of general fifth-grade wildness cannot be ignored. Evidentially, fifth-graders do not behave well. First graders, they can walk quietly in a line or go down the stairs to recess without forming a stampede that can't be stopped by anything short of an administrator; fifth graders can't. Perhaps the admonishers have some concept of the platonic ideal of a fifth grader in mind, but as that ideal bears no relation to reality I am forced to admit that, when they chase each other around the classroom or refuse to stop talking for more than 25 seconds at a stretch, these fine young people are, in fact, acting just like fifth graders.

forward spring

It is spring today, and we celebrated it in style in my classroom. I had the childrens come up with a million different ways to finish a sentence that begins "Spring is...", mostly because I wasn't satisfied when they said "fun" the first seven times; some more explicit instruction was required to pull out the kind of answers I really wanted, like "Spring is beautiful trees and bugs" and "Spring is riding bikes". Then we made posters. Spring is tissue-paper collages, and the watered down glue that holds such collages together is not as difficult to clean up when it spills all over the table (twice! no, three times!) than you might imaging. I did put it in very small cups for a reason.

One problem with the arrival of spring is that I still haven't gotten my seeds in the mail. Everything stands ready for them; well, almost ready. I can't bring myself to finish their enclosure until they're actually in my hot little hands, but it won't take long now! I've even learned something about florescent lights, though perhaps still not enough. But if they don't come soon, there's no chance they'll be ready in time for prime gardening season, and I'll have to end up buying plants again. Like every other year. Boo. Oh well, at least the seed-starting will be good practice, and maybe with careful storage I can try and keep some of the extra seeds until next year.

Everything else seems to be going apace in the garden, without much intervention from us. Crocuses blooming (very small this year, but present), daffodils sprouting very nicely (and nicely increased in number, it looks like!), lilies and irises starting to emerge. It's enough to make you want to keep on living!


today was notable for the following reasons

Not tremendously significant on the global scale, perhaps, but what is a blog for but to record minor personal milestones or significant events? We formally opened the garden season today by doing some tidying and pruning, and we also opened the ice-cream season by walking to Bedford Farms for cones after lunch. I am now beginning to recover. I also (nearly!) finished my first-ever batch of report cards, which is perhaps a major personal milestone in the career of a teacher. In this case the real teacher will be back soon and I will be relieved of this terrible responsibility. I like gardening and ice cream better than assessing and ranking!

prayer for recess

It doesn't seem like the elementary school children are going to get to play in the snow at all during school hours. The policy, as I understand it, is that if even the wind-chill is below 20°F we all have to stay indoors; naturally, as that wind-chill rating is reached any time the air temperature is 26° or below and there is any air moving, we have a great many indoor recesses during the winter months. As what I think about the popular reaction to what's described as "cold weather" is well known around here, I won't reiterate it further.

In any case, even if we did manage to get outside the poor wee bairns wouldn't have an easy time having any actual fun. No picking up snow, no standing on snow piles, no going on the ice (or any vaguely ice-like patches of slippery snow), no sliding down the hill any other way than sitting up facing forwards... whoosh! Far be it from me to question the wisdom of the administration as expressed through the will of the recess aides—the liability is not mine, nor the need to handle any potential parent complaints—but I do take exception to the self-righteousness with which a few of the authorities enforce the anti-snow-fun diktats. I'd be amused to hear what their own winter recesses were like, lo these many years ago. A little different, I'd be willing to bet. Me, I harken back to the recesses described by Mark Twain and Laura Ingells Wilder, where the kids got kicked out of the schoolhouse for an hour or so and had to fend for themselves without any rules to keep them safe. As long as enough youngsters survive to ensure the continuation of the species, isn't that good enough for us?