Saturday, May 19, 2012

Know Thy Class

I have quite a crew of kids this year.  This is my first experience teaching fourth grade, and let's just say it's been a trial by fire.  My little darlings have a unique set of quirks and interests.  The poor secretary at my school had been hard pressed to find guest teachers willing to return after one day with them when I was out.  We finally found a retired principal I cajoled and begged to work with the kiddos.

Though my crew is tough, I adore the little buggers.  As I pleaded with them to behave for guest teachers and asked why they were so naughty they explained that guest teachers just aren't me.  My lesson plans are four pages long. Single spaced.  A guest teacher doesn't even get to HOW to start the day until he or she has read the proper care and feeding guide for individual students.  Then there are the instructions of "how we roll" in the room and explanations of how Beck bucks are given and taken.  I try to be as thorough as possible, yet it's just not "me" teaching the kids.

I know my class intimately.  When their little faces go vacant we stop midstream and sing "Mother Gooney Bird" or "Shark Attack."  Before a test we do breathing exercises.  No academics begin until the kids have stretched out with downward dog and child's pose.  I know who needs to run an "errand" for a movement break and who needs a few minutes to chill alone because of an altercation at recess.  These quick subtle adjustments to the day come as easily to me as singing the alphabet, but I can't just put that on paper, though I've tried.

One of the tenets of Responsive Classroom is "knowing the children you teach is as important as knowing what you teach."  After 160 days with this gang I know them well.  As I prepare this group to move onto middle school I want to tuck a note in each child's folder explaining the intricacies of him or her.  I want the future teachers to appreciate their beautiful strengths even in the face of some aggravating challenges.  These kids are mine, and as I've learned from my past 17 classes, they always will be.

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