Friday, October 30, 2009

Parties and Plans: Then and Now

Here I am, at home, with my sick child. I had to leave school at noon to take care of my daughter after receiving a call from the nurse at her school telling me my daughter was sick.

When I was in 2nd grade, here are the directions that probably would have been left for my teacher's substitute had she left early that day:
  1. Make sure everyone stays in his or her own desk.
  2. Ask two students to give out the treats (If suggestions were given of "good students," I would have been listed of course!!)
  3. Give out the Halloween worksheet. Students should complete it by themselves.
  4. Sing Halloween song.
  5. Have two students clean up the trash.
  6. Have two students sweep the floor.
  7. Have two students clap the erasers.
  8. Have students pack up.

And here are some of the directions I left:
  1. Here is how you log into the Mac. It is the same way as you log into a pc.....
  2. Here is where you access the on/off to the projector (it's in a box).
  3. Do you know how to orient the Smartboard (yes, good). If you have trouble, see the teacher next door.
  4. Here is the link to the web site, etc. (provided directions to get to a Halloween spelling game to play on the Smartboard).
  5. Here is a pile of books my student helpers and I collected in case you need them to read.
  6. On the children's desks are science papers. They need to observe the toothpaste and water to see what it looks like after sitting overnight.
  7. The children can have some independent reading time if there's time. They love that. Or, they can write in their journals. They were learning about "sound words" and alliteration by watching two short videos and creating a podcast yesterday so they might want to use those styles in their writing today.
  8. Parents are coming at 1:30 to help the children dress. Some parents will stay in the classroom to help set up for the party (food and craft) and others will come on the parade around town.
  9. I have partnered the children for the parade so they keep an eye on each other. I used the digital photo magnets of the children posted on the chalkboard to show you who the partners are.
  10. Here is my cell phone number in case you have any questions.
  11. Make sure to lock up the Mac and cord in the closet when you are finished.

Whew! No wonder we are tired at the end of the day - even if we aren't there!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Classroom Culture

As all teachers know, every year you have a different group of children and a different feel to the classroom. There are different people, of course, in your environment, and that makes all the difference. You are teaching similar content, the classroom itself is somewhat the same, you probably have many of the same books, desks, learning materials, standards to achieve, and a similar schedule to adhere to. But, luckily, we get to do our job differently every year. That is one of the exciting things about teaching - even if you teach the same grade year after year.

As the "leader" of the group, a teacher does have some say (at least we try) in the development of the culture of the classroom. This year I have been observing some of the very interesting developments in the culture of my second grade classroom that I find fascinating because the children are creating some of this culture themselves by making the most of the structures that have been set up in this particular learning environment. Here are two examples:

A few weeks ago a child brought in a rock from home. During the busy morning as the children were arriving, the child showed me the rock. I commented on the rock as I was getting the day organized. He asked me if he should put it on the display table. I quickly said yes as I attended to the other children. After a few minutes (processing, processing), I stopped and thought, "Do we have a display table?" I then realized that on the first day of school a child brought in some things from her summer vacation. We put them on a metal stand that I use to store science materials. Without my paying much attention to it, the stand gradually became a display table for all kinds of interesting items the children wanted to share with the class: books, toys, rocks, shells, awards, Halloween decorations. Sometimes I don't know who put the items there - they just "appear" there. And that seems to satisfy the need of the children to share their things without having them become a distraction. And, the other children respect the items and leave them alone.

This is the first year our four Macbooks available at the very beginning of the year for the students to use in the classroom. The children are already becoming comfortable using the computers and will even ask for "my mac" when they have some work to do. But it still surprised me when I was talking with another teacher as the children came into the classroom after lunch and I heard the "ding" of the macs as they were being turned on. I found it surprising, and amusing, that the children were so comfortable with themselves as learners and tech. users that they would get right to work after lunch without waiting for me to give them any directions (I did actually have a math lesson planned by the way...). You have to remember, these are only second graders! They aren't fooling around - they want to get their work done. And this is THEIR work - not my assignment for them to complete.

With guidance and trust, modeling and support, even the youngest children will embrace learning and leading in their classroom. Keep an eye on them...they're fascinating. And they won't wait for you either!!