Welcome Back from Winter Break!
The first thing any of my students said as I picked them up from the playground at the beginning of the day was, “Ms. GrownUp! My Dad had to go to jail!” Usually the reason is something like drug possession or something else fairly minor like that. “Oh, I’m sorry…” I said, since nothing more appropriate came to my mind. “He got sent to jail ‘cause he threw something at my mom.” My response then was just, “Oh.” How am I supposed to respond to that? I can’t say, though I was thinking, ‘Well, in that case, I am very proud of your mother for not living with abuse. I know that, while you are a delight, your siblings, especially the one who attends a special school for children with behavior problems, are a huge handful. I can’t imagine having to take care of all of you all day, alone. Your mom is stronger than I’ll ever be.’
Leaves had fallen on the ground during winter break, and there were piles and piles of leaves everywhere. On the way to lunch the class was looking longingly at the leaves, wanting nothing more than to jump in them like excited puppy dogs. One girl looked thoughtfully at the leaves and commented, “I should have brought a rake! A-something-E!” I’m not sure why she felt compelled to explain the spelling of the long-A sound in that word, but it certainly made me laugh.
One student happily shared that his father had come back from Mexico. The father had left a few weeks ago because he couldn’t find a job here. This father is, from what I can tell, a great father. I haven’t spoken to him much, but I know that during conferences he was absolutely beaming as I talked to him about his son. The whole time he just looked in awe that I was saying so many wonderful things about his kid. It was adorable. I am very glad that he was able to come back to the US to live with his family.
As I picked the class up from recess, one of the girls limped up to me and exclaimed (very excitedly), “I stepped in dog poop! I’ve got dog poop on my shoe!” I wasn’t sure what to do, but eventually made her take her shoe off outside. She then very carefully handed it to me, and I carried it with two fingers to the classroom where I attacked it with a Clorox wipe.
I was working with a guided reading group on a word-building activity. The students had an assortment of alphabet magnets (for word making) and a paper and pencil (for recording). One girl was absentmindedly holding two pencils – one in each hand. The boy next to her looked down and couldn’t find his pencil. “Hey! Where’d my pencil go?!” he complained, looking around. “E---, you stole my pencil!” he accused the girl. “What? No I didn’t,” she said (still holding a pencil in each hand.) The boy pointed at her hands, “Yeah, look!” he demanded. E--- looked at her hands and was shocked to discover that she was in fact holding two pencils. She shrugged as if she had no idea how the pencil had gotten into her hand, passed it over to the boy, and went back to work.
At the end of the day I finally let my students go play outside in the leaves for exactly three minutes. It was three minutes of pure joy, excitement, and happiness. (Except for the four students who had lost the privilege to play in the leaves because they did not do their work during math centers.) Of course, I planned poorly and let them play in the front of the school. That meant that all the parents who arrived early saw me and my class participating in utter mayhem – throwing leaves in each other’s hair, jumping on leaf piles that often contained half-buried children, (sometimes resulting in a pained yelp) and behaving completely unlike any other class that exited the building calmly, quietly, and in a line. When the bell rang and it was really time to go, I got most of the children to calm down a little bit and, like in dodge ball, not throw leaves above knee-level. I fear the leaves will be gone tomorrow, and with it the wonderful excitement they brought with them. A little chaos is well deserved at the end of the first day back after a long break.