Friday, October 24, 2008

Worldly Wisdom Elementary Style

One day my second grade students and I were discussing a story we were reading in our reader. The story was fiction about a world where their was no illness or death. Hoping to start a thought provoking discussion, I ask my class,”What do you think a world like that would be like?” Max, my deep thinker, raised his hand and said, “Crowded!” The moral to that story, Never underestimate a child’s mind.
Another time around Thanksgiving time we were discussing Pilgrims. We were saying that all of our ancestors came from another country, unless we were Native American. At the end of that discussion, I asked my students to follow up with a homework assignment for that evening. They were to go home and find out what countries their family ancestors left to come to America. The next morning only one student had is homework and was very anxious to share with the class his new knowledge. I praised him for doing the assignment and invited him to share. He said with a mischievous grin, “My family is from Mars!” Surprised, I chided him gently, “Now Max, you know that is not true.” “Tell us where they are really from!”
“Really teacher, that’s what my mom said.” replied Max. He paused and grinned as he said, “ Of course, she was mad at my Dad and my brother at the time!”

My Friend Janay

The following story by a second grade student named Janay illustrates one of the many reasons a teacher teaches. One of the Perks of the job if you will. This little Janay and her friend Kristi had been ganging up on a little girl called Christina. Christina was quite a character herself, but after a few days of cruel words and treatment of her at recess, I pulled Kristi and Janay aside and talked to them at length about being a friend. Janay took things said to heart and really gave it some effort. Later in the year for a writing project, I asked the students to write me a story about their friend. This was Janay’s story.

My Friend

My friend helps me when I need help. She helps me when I need to be nice to people, even Christina! She is not mean to me. She teaches me how to be a friend. If I am nice to people they are nice to me. This friend is a real teaching person. She helps everyone. This person is Ms. Riggs.

At the end of the year, she made a cute little memory book as only second graders can do. In it she stated, “ I want to be a teacher, because I want to be like you! I like you and love you. Thanks for teaching me. You taught me how to do Art, Math, etc. You are the best to me.

Such are the rewards of teaching! No amount of money could compensate for this experience.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grandchild Wisdom

     Healthy Thinking.
     My granddaughter age eight was riding in my car with me to the mountain cabin.  We were having a heart to heart talk.  She said, "You know grandma, some people say I talk to much, but I love to talk, so I think I"m just going to keep talking."  I her grandmother who also loves to talk was proud of what I thought was a rather Healthy attitude that she ought to keep throughout her life.

     Too Old to Share
     My four year old granddaughter wasn't happy about sharing her crayons with her three year old cousin. Her older and wiser sister tried to persuade her that sharing was the right thing to do. With her hands on her hips and her lower lip stuck out, she uttered, "I'm too old to share!" 

The Case of Casey

The Case of Casey
     As a teacher, many of my experiences are of a light-hearted nature.  Memories that one would look back on with laughter and joy at the cute antics of young children. However some experiences bring a different type of joy.  It might be described as the joy one feels after a difficult and exhausting journey with a troubled child that concludes as a victory with a wonderful sense of satisfaction and reward.  A gratitude perhaps of just being part of that young child's life. That of being able to make a difference. Such was the case of a young lady by the name of Casey.
     My introduction to Casey came before she entered my second grade classroom.  I had agreed to help a friend who lived out of town to help her take care of her rental which was just across the street from my home. The first renter that occupied it was Casey, her younger brother and her single mom. Unfortunately her mom was not a great parent. She was on drugs, couldn't hold a job or care for her children. 
After trashing the house, she escaped in the middle of the night without paying her rent. A lawyer was hired, but not much was accomplished. Two months later the office at my school sent me a new student. Imagine my surprise when there stood Casey and her mother in the door way of my classroom. Hence began the saga of Casey in the classroom. She was a very pretty and intelligent child. She was always dressed in tattered, dirty clothes usually too small and shoes to large. She didn't have many friends and a very low self esteem. Most of the students liked her and tried to include her, but unfortunately I had two rather mean-spirited little girls who seem to delight in making her miserable whenever they were out of sight and hearing of the teacher. Casey's reaction was an extreme tantrum. She would kick and scream and throw desks and break things. Partially, I think that she didn't receive enough love and attention from her mother. It is also my understanding that drug parents are either very happy and high or very low, angry and out of control. There isn't too much emotion in between or on the level so to speak. With that background, Casey would often fly into a rage, especially if tantilized by the two little girls of which we previously spoke.
At our school, we had a discipline system called the "Owl squad". This was to help with students who had issues of self control. When a student acted out,  a squad made up of a group of teachers would be summoned.  This system made it so that the other students didn't lose out on their education and the offending student was carried often kicking and screaming to the time out room. They were given the opportunity to walk alongside the team of teachers if they could stay in control. It also protected the teachers from hearsay and lawsuits, as their were plenty of witnesses.  It didn't do much for the offending students education process, but then they weren't ready to learn at that point anyway.  I decided to come up with my own in the classroom method so the other teachers wouldn't have to leave their classrooms so often, although they were not out very long.  So this is when the idea of the  "Chill Chair"  was born.  
The chair was put in the hall and Casey and I had a discussion that if she felt anger coming on or If I said Chill Chair and pointed my finger towards the hall, she was to go there and stay there until she felt in control. She could come back in at any time she felt she was ready. If she had issues that she wanted to work out, she made an appointment with me when I was not in the process of teaching and we would get to the root of her problem. That way I could go on teaching and the other students did not suffer downtime for learning. It worked beautifully, because Casey loved to learn and it gave her time to cool down.  Soon her head would peer around the door and back in she would come because she wanted to hear more of what we were learning. Sometimes that was the end of her anger and other times we had a problem solving session later. That year Casey and I developed a good relationship and she made some friends and learned a lot.  Several years later when Casey was in junior high she and her mother appeared in the door of my classroom again one afternoon after school.  This time Casey and her mother were in the area and Casey wanted to say Hi, to her favorite Elementary teacher.
Her mother was off drugs and had a responsible job. They were doing well. It is days like this that make teaching all worthwhile!  It is my hope and prayers that she is still somewhere moving forward with her life and making the world a better place.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Child Humor 3

Age from a youthful viewpoint
One day during a class discussion, I shared with my second graders that their teacher was also a grandmother. After our discussion, the students settled down to do some seat work and were quietly working as I looked over some of their papers at my desk. Out of the silence, a child blurted out, “Teacher, you don’t look like a grandmother, you look like a mother.” “Thank you,” I said feeling quite flattered. “What do you think a grandmother looks like?” I asked. “She has lots of bumps and dents in her skin,” said a little voice from the back of the room. “Her hair is very white,” a little girl joined in. “There are brown spots all over her arms and hands " said another. Alberto, in the middle row, speaking in his finest Spanish accent, finished our impromptu discussion with, “And she can’t walk so very well!

The Elementary age of Technology
While reading stories my second grade students had written, I became keenly aware of how technology has changed the way students view their world as compared to other students I had taught in the last twenty-two years. A little girl was writing a Halloween Story about how to make wing bat stew. The closing lines of her story were, “If you wish to know more about Wing Bat Stew you will find it on W.W.W. Wing Bat Stew .com.

Spanking Anyone
One afternoon while my grandchildren and their parents were visiting. My four year old grandaughter Kylie was tired and acting out a little. Her mother in exasperation spoke firmly, but sharply to her, Kylie would you like a Spanking?” “ Hmmmm! Said my grandchild in deep consideration,” “No Thanks!”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Child Humor 2

Just thought I’d write a few more choice tidbits spoken from the mouths of children. Four Letter Words
As a first grade teacher teaching students to read, I was very excited one day, when I discovered that my students were able to put four letters together to form words. Proudly, I bragged on them, saying, I’m so proud of you. You are up to four-letter words now.” Never once did I consider the double meaning until the following parent conference. A close friend and mother of one of my students, with a mischievous grin whispered, “ I understand your teaching four-lettered words now!!”
Growing up Fast
When I was a second grade teacher, I was spotlighting one of my students on her birthday.
“Mikelle, What is your favorite T.V. show?” I asked. “ I can’t make up my mind!” she replied.
That’s alright, you may have two favorites, I comforted her. “Oh good!” she responded, “I just can’t decide between, “Sesame Street” and “Days of our Lives.”
Oops! Where’s Johnny
A teacher colleague of mine, had an embarrassing experience that can only happen to those who teach Elementary school students. While on a field trip to a local bank, one of her little male students needed to use the restroom. Because this certain child often wandered off, she stationed herself outside the restroom door while he took care of business, so as to prevent his escape to other places of adventure. After standing there for several minutes, the restroom door opened. Without turning around she stated, “Alright, Buddy boy, Let’s Go!!” To her surprise, a deep voice of a six-foot nature answered, “Alright, and where are we going?”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Child Humor

Today is the first day of school for the students of Washington County and my third year as a retired school teacher. My thoughts have been on some of the adorable things the children have said through the years. You can learn a lot and enjoy a good laugh from the wisdom and words of children. I have written many of those memories down through the years that bring joy to my life when I read them and I would like to share a few of them today.

Friendly Indians
One morning I was reading my second grade students the story, “Little House on the Prairie”. It was specifically about the part where they were concerned if the Indians they were about to meet on the trail would be friendly. My class consisted of several Nationalities, including Native American. Wishing to be politically correct, I proceeded to explain the historic situation in the time of the old west, assuring them that the Indians were friendly. One wide -eyed Indian boy sitting at my feet on the Reading rug replied sincerely with an innocent smile and dark eyes shining, “I’m a friendly Indian.!”
Southern Gentlemen
One hot afternoon while leading my class of second graders’ across town for a field trip, I over heard
some of my students engaged in a rather interesting conversation and I found it difficult not to laugh right out loud. First of all, I need to back up and tell you about the two participants. Ryan was a handsome intelligent boy who had moved to my class in Utah from one of the Southern states and had a cute little southern accent. Needless to say the girls all had crushes on him. One girl in my class, Kristine liked him too. Kristine was popular and used to getting what she wanted, which at this point was Ryan. However, Ryan had not one bit of interest in her. Finally, after all afternoon trying to get his attention, she finally became exasperated and screamed, “I hate you Ryan!” I waited for the reaction to see if I needed to intercede. In true Southern Gentlemen fashion, Ryan drawled, “Well-ll-ll then I suppose we have something in common, don’t we.”
Old but classy
My second grade students had been writing short stories all year and we were in the process of helping them publish a little book of their favorite writings. As one little girl and I were editing her story, I almost had to chuckle, when I read her perspective of me. “My teacher is old, but she has pretty clothes.”

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Self Esteem

You hear so many differing opinions about self-esteem and how it is achieved in our society of late. As a teacher, mother and grandmother, I would like to add my conclusions about the matter. These conclusions about the subject, I have arrived at, not only from my training, but from a common sense approach after watching the many children I have taught grow to adulthood. In recent decades it seems the belief is you should never criticize a child, only praise he or she. While of course yelling at the child and hurtful name calling can be damaging there is such a thing as constructive criticism which can be accompanied by praise of things the child has done well and how they can improve in their weakness area. Standards for living and rules for living should be in place and punishments that teach should be applied in a consistent manner for misbehavior. Follow through being a consistent action taken. As a teacher, I have seen some parents, not all of course, dive in and save their children from consequences. It will be with these parents, that only teachers and other students are to blame. Even the best children from the best homes will tell a lie if they think they are in trouble for their actions. Children are intelligent and learn to manipulate quickly, never taking the blame for their actions if they are not held accountable. It is my firm belief that self-esteem comes from a job well done or good choices. I think children know when they are in the right or wrong and adults don’t do them any favor by saving them from natural consequences.