/* open id delegation ---------------------------------------------- */

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pre School Jitters.

I'm having way more anxiety for school starting this year than I did before the start of last school year.

Last year, I had no expectations. I knew nothing. So everything was good.

This year I have expectations and I know nothing will look like I am expecting it to.

I'm at a new school with a new principal and new teachers.

I didn't get to choose this school, I was just placed there.

I was going to have one class, and it changed last minute, and it was partially my decision and now I'm regretting it. The option was given to me way out of the blue and I didn't know anything and I should have asked for a night to think about it, but I didn't, and I know it will be fine, but I'm still mad at myself for saying I would change my class.

Everything will be different and I want it all to be the same. Aside from the whole getting layed off thing last year, it was a fabulous year. I loved everything about last year.

A new year will never be able to live up to last year.

I'm trying not to have expectations. I'm trying to go into it with an open mind, an "everything will be fine" mind. But for some reason, I can't.

I am terrified and I don't know why.

Monday, July 06, 2009


(This is my fifth post in the series I am writing about each of my students from this past year.)

Lisa was a very quiet student in my class. Unlike the other girls, she never wears skirts or skorts or jumpers. She only ever wears pants. She doesn't wear braids or barrettes or multiple ponytail holders in her hair. She has either one ponytail or her hair is down. She doesn't usually hang out with the rest of the girls (who greatly outnumber the boys) in my class. Really, she doesn't hang out with much of anyone. Not in an outcast way - the others don't avoid her, they actually all seem to quite like her. Not in a shy way - Lisa doesn't cower on the fringe of groups. She just doesn't participate in the girly giggly, hair playing, actively sucking-up-to-the-teacher activities that most of the other girls do.

Lisa is perfectly behaved, perfectly. She is the best behaved student in the class. I at times called her my "Sticker Queen" because there were days when I would get frustrated and give those who quickly behaved a sticker. Lisa ended up covered in stickers because she was always the first one to clean up, the first one to sit down, the first one to start her work. Like all my students, Lisa is Latina, but was one of the 3 students in my class who was not considered to be an English language learner. She doesn't speak Spanish. In fact, at one point on a school feedback form (that was supposed to be anonymous), her mother complained that all the ELL students were given too much attention and stole the teacher's attention from the English-only students. (Which I know is not true in my class since, of those three monolingual English speakers in my class, one is a significant behavior challenge, one is a always-in-the-middle-of-everything busybody, and one is Lisa, the sticker queen who is praised and used as a model constantly.)

Academically, Lisa was generally just slightly below where I would have liked her to have been. But, she always did her work, always tried hard, and always worked well with others, despite the fact that she wasn't drawn to hanging out in large groups.

One day Lisa whispered to me, "Ms. Grownup, I'm wearing boys shoes." I responded, "Okay. Hey, as long as they're comfy, that's great!" And that was that. They were gym shoes, white/blue/black instead of the girlie white/pink/purple color combination that is sold in the girl's shoe sections.

Lisa was always awesome. I very strategically sat her between two girls. One girl was academically much lower than Lisa and quite hyperactive. This girl, Juliette, sometimes struggled with partners. Lisa was always a fabulous partner to Juliette. Even when they weren't doing specific partner work, Lisa helped her read or sound out the spelling (she didn't tell Juliette how to spell, Lisa simply helped sound out the words). When Juliette got off task, Lisa tried to draw her back. On the other side of Lisa sat Clara, a girl with fairly low self-esteem (both academic and social). Lisa "helped" her academically, even though in reality Clara had advanced quite a bit and was about equal to Lisa in reading ability. Lisa was always there to pay attention to Clara though, which was important. When the two of the worked together, they worked quietly and slowly, but generally got the job done.

During a kind of raucous science activity one day, a student shouted across the room to me, "Ms. Grownup! Lisa says she's a boy, but she isn't." I shouted back, "Lisa can say she is whoever she want to be." And again, that was that. I was going in a thousand directions at the time, and didn't get a chance to think about it until later.

Do these conversations mean anything? I don't know.
Am I reading more into it than is actually there? Perhaps.
Does Lisa feel more like a boy, than like the girl who society wants her to be? Or was the other student misinterpreting something she had said? I'm not sure.

In class, I didn't talk about gender much except to point out that there is no such thing as a "girl color" or a "boy color." To talk about the fact that girls and boys can wear whatever colored clothes or styled clothes they want. To show examples of and talk about how there is no such thing as a "girl job" or a "boy job." I tried to make sure I called on each gender equally for each type of lesson/style of question (though I never charted it or had anyone chart it for me, so I don't know if I was entirely successful in doing so.)

Maybe next year I should talk more explicitly about gender, discussing what students' perceptions are, and why they have stereotypes about gender. In college, the first unit plan I created had a really neat lesson on gender stereotypes. Maybe I'll try to modify it to first grade and use it next year.

Friday, July 03, 2009


(This is my fourth post in the series I am writing about each of my students from this past year.)

Jason was only in my class for a few weeks. Four weeks, five, maybe. He came in unexpectedly one day (just showing up at my classroom door with the secretary, as new students tended to do). His cousin began the same day in the class next door.

Jason was a fabulous reader, placed in my super-high group (and in fact, I never got around to testing him all the way, to see how "high" he really was.) His math skills, however, were very low. Basic concepts confused him. Maybe he had been at a school before that focused even more on reading than we did. Maybe they didn't do enough math in his old first grade. Or, maybe he was just not a mathematician. I don't know. I worked individually with him, but he wasn't there long enough for me to really get to know him.

Anyway, one day, after having been in the room for weeks, Jason looked over at the wall and saw our Weekly Reader issue with Obama on the cover.

"Hey!" he shouted with a grin. "I know that guy!"
"Yeah?" I asked.
"Yeah! We talked about him at my old school!"
"Tell me about him," I suggested.
"That's 'Bama! I voted for him! I want him to be president!"
"Well, he is," I reassured Jason.
"Yeah..." Jason responded, still looking adoringly at the picture.

Jason got very excited about things in a very adorable way.

During science one day we were doing observations. He came up to me with the science material and started talking and exclaiming about the object he was observing.

"It's so happy!" he shouted, I think talking about the whole situation, not the specific object he was observing. "It's so cool!" he continued.
"Yeah?" I prompted him.
"Yeah...I think I'm going to explode of happiness..." he sighed with satisfaction under his breath, as he walked back to his desk.

Unfortunately, Jason left as suddenly as he arrived. One day he was absent, and his cousin told me he had moved. "Moved, like, to a new house?" I asked, "Or moved to a new school."
"He moved far away," she answered, shrugging her shoulders. And, I never saw Jason again. His cousin ended up moving a few weeks later as well.

Wherever they went, I hope they're living together still. Jason was a little spacey, a little scatterbrained. His cousin took good care of him. They had lived together when they both went to Awesome School, and I think helped each other in different ways. (Jason helped with the reading, his cousin helped with developing social skills.)