Monday, September 26, 2005

This is Me, Rocking in a Chair and Painting My Face With Glue

Okay, ordinarily I try to be a little tongue-in-cheek, to add a little hilarity to what truly is a hilarious day. And, while I am sure there were hilarious moments to my day, please bear with me while I rant just a little bit.

Dear School Administrators:

Half a day is just not long enough for kindergarten. In the good old days, when kindergarten was all about paint and clay and "don't eat the glue" and "scissors aren't for cutting hair" (this last one was actually heard coming from my mouth today) and learning how to share crayons and let the girls play with blocks, and let the boys in the house center- half a day was probably enough. Now, when there are five binders of state standards on my desk, and a scope and sequence of what my little knotty-headed sugars need to know, half a day is not enough. When some of my kids go to day care in the morning, get on a bus for kindergarten, and then leave on the daycare bus to spend another three hours at day care, a half a day is not enough. When I have to catch some kids sneaking food in my classroom because no one fed them at home, and they could qualify for the free lunch program, HALF A DAY IS NOT E_EFFING_NOUGH.

Let me tell you about how my full day preschoolers had it- we had a whole day to play, and discover, and explore books and new things. I could rip off the tops of pumpkins and they could squish to their hearts content. I could take them outside to jump in some leaves, and we could talk about the words crunchy, crispy, and scratchy. I could create picture recipes that four year olds could follow to make their own play-dough. We could read all together before quiet time, listen to interesting music, and have some rest. We could do one letter every few days, and the kids were learning how to form it and the memory of the letter S and F and all the rest actually stuck without sliding off their very engaged brains.

Now let me tell you how my half-day kindergarteners have it, prefacing this with the very real fact that in later grades, the first, second, and so on grade teachers are wondering why the kids are so hyper-rushed-why they can't do quality work. Well, because somehow I have to cram-pack letter-phonemic awareness into their very diverse little brains, while at the same time setting a foundation for numeration and basic functions of numbers. I have a range of needs to meet, a couple of behavior charts to set up and keep track of, and a child who is still learning English (with all of his might). And, boy, are they learning. They're learning that speed is valued over quality, they're learning that Mrs. C. can't listen to their stories about their mornings, because we only have three and a half hours in one day, and that includes a half an hour for library or computer lab or whatever, and the fifteen minutes it takes to get ready to go home. They're learning that if they just follow along with the rank and file and don't ask questions or wonder why, that they get a gold f-ing star and a treat.

I'm turning into the monster that I hate- the propagator of the "Rushed Child;" the Ritalin manufacturer’s dream. I'm festooning my room with books carefully chosen (and bought with money I could not afford to spend on them, but did anyways) from the IRA and NAEYC's best literature lists, and the kids can barely get a chance to get their hands on them. I just about want to call Geneseo and tell them to take my diploma back every time a kid looks over at the books from where we're doing crap inactive work, and tells me hopefully, "I like Little Critter," and I have to tell them that I hope we get to look at it one day. I feel like I have this great classroom of kids and I can't be a teacher to them the way that I want to because I have so many things to check off the list that was created by YOU ADMINISTRATORS, you who have barely set foot in a classroom, you who don't even visit a classroom except for to critique. Well, I've had it. I've decided that the worst that could happen was I can be terminated without rehire at the end of the school year, so we're going to do this MY way. My students will read and be read to; my students will have a chance to look at all materials I bring in; if I want to let them build a fish tank instead of practicing their name for a day, by God that's what we'll do.

Sincerely, one fed up teacher.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Meet my Kindergarteners

Well, sort of. After a week of reflection and observations (and saying, "Sit down!" eleventy-billion times) I have figured out at least the personality types of my kids.

We have:

The Whiner
The whiner clearly gets everything he wants by whining every waking minute of his day. I do believe this lad actually whined through the Pledge. I know when his hand is up in the air, waving desperately at me because it sounds like there's a puppy in the room. Because I do not have the power of clairvoyance, I idiotically placed him beside the Quiet Instigator. Go me. When the two of them are doing some classic things like pinching, poking, and the latest rage, "blowing on one another's hair," he's laughing until the second they realize I am giving them the Teacher Look, and then he goes into full whine mode. "Ummmm, ummm, he's blowwwwwing me Mrs. C, he won't stooooooooop." When I remind him that he was laughing and never asked Q.I. to stop, he gets sullen and pouty. Yes kindergarten fans, this is one behavior that I will abolish, if it's the last thing I do.

The Quiet Instigator
The Q.I. is someone who is always cheerful and always smiling. He also always has one eye open for me, and the other eye looking out for a worthy target. He's got the "Who, me?" shrug down to an art. He's quite sneaky, and also is turning into the malevolent form of the Q.I.- the Stealer/Liar. I caught him stealing a marble from the marble jar last week, and he still seems to be eying it up every time he's near it. My goal for this little darling is for him to retain his love of taking chances, but transform them from the purpose of picking on others, to pouring himself into some positive interests.

The Little Bossy Girl, aka "Little Clara"
Lord have mercy on my soul- if I had a quarter for every time I say to Little Clara, "Are you the teacher? Please let him write his own name, so he learns how," I would be able to buy the glue made from professional racehorses, not some ghetto sway-backed ponies. This girl's head is on a swivel, and she is constantly in the state of touring the facility and picking up slack. She's actually helpful in that she ties shoes, and has already memorized every second of every routine, but man oh man is she intrusive. She's also another one where I can use her talents after I refine them a bit (like, get her to understand that she does not have the authority to tell another child to move their color to green!)

The Clinger
This kid is the kite to my tail. Literally. I keep having to shift his vise-like grasp to my leg, instead of my rear-end. He trails me about the room, hanging on for dear life, and when I am able to get him to sit down to do some work, he reaches out to grab me every time I walk by. He's gotten much better now that I make sure to give him a hug when he arrives, and stop by his table to pat his head every once in a while. This kid is the one that makes me wish I had a classroom with a rocking chair, stuffed animals, books everywhere, and other toys. I could probably sit and rock with this kid (and a few other clingers) and read stories all day. But, this cannot be.

They're all such neat kids- and I get more fun and hilarity with them tomorrow! I'll have to describe parent types on another day.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Some Photos (and much unpaid overtime)

Just thought I'd show off what a little construction paper, and going to work on a Sunday can accomplish.

Although, to be completely fair, when everyone was telling me that Sunday was a good day to accomplish a few things in my classroom, no one bothered to tell me that I would be sharing my quiet work time with the Love Baptist Church. They apparantly rent out the gym, the cafeteria, and a few empty rooms on Sunday from 7 AM-2PM. Which is all well and good, except for the Pre-teen Boys Sunday School teacher and I gave each other a pretty good scare.

There I was, merrily cutting and taping and drawing twelve birthday cakes, singing along with Nirvana on the radio and minding my own business (although I was wondering about the smattering of sharply dressed people in the parking lot) when a large, suited man burst through my door. I just about disembowled myself with rounded-edge scissors, and he immediately flew backwards out of the room. He crept back in, and stared at the primary-hued masterpiece that is my room. "Is this 109?" he asked. Once we had gotten ourselves situated, and he realized that he needed to move his kids elsewhere, I peeked out into the hallway.

This church was not joking around. I saw choir uniforms being briskly wheeled into the gym, I saw a decked out minister striding past a couple of guys pushing an organ behind the choir robes. Accutely aware that "Heart Shaped Box" was mournfully wailing away behind me, I decided to work at a much lower volume. Four hours later, I believe my room turned into something more workable.

Day One of teaching went pretty well, considering it felt like a cross between balancing 23 marbles on a piece of cardboard, and herding cats. I still have a voice, which is pretty noteworthy, and having all of the kids at once wasn't really that difficult. Each of the rules on the sign above tells their own little story. I think I'll save that madness for another day. What was difficult about today was:

#1- I have no desk or computer. All of the attendance and various teacher-paperwork is done online here, and taking attendance and getting it to the office the exact moment they wanted it was tricky. Which means, it plain old didn't happen.

#2- The munchkins can't operate the sink, and therefore, every time one of them went to the bathroom (and, as they are about three feet tall, have lightning-quick urinary systems), I had to hold the faucet on for them with one hand, and try to keep my touchy-feely kid from wrapping his peers in an octapus-hold, using only the Jedi-mind skills I'm attempting to learn from my husband.

#3- No coat-hooks. I get a cheerful reply of, "They'll be here soon!" every time I ask, and I'm sure the second I leave, the office staff die laughing as I sadly trudge my way back to a room where backpacks and coats are in piles on the floor.

#4- No mailboxes or cubby system for the kids. This meant I had to coordinate handing out four pieces of VERY IMPORTANT paperwork at the end of the day. Sounds easy? Try getting one five year old to put one thing in a backpack.

Most importantly, I still want to go back tomorrow. Especially since it's "Computer Lab" day, and I'm dying of curiosity about what sort of technological wonders some of my kids will do.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bananas and Butts

Today I had a chance to view my room, and meet the other kindergarten teachers.

I also had a chance to observe the inner workings of a kindergarten classroom in this particular school- unfortunately, since the class size is approximately 31 right now in both rooms, it's sort of the definition of chaos.

One very cute little guy in glasses and a bright yellow shirt spent a lot of his afternoon rapidly moving. He was on the floor, on his chair, on the table, hugging a friend, and back on the floor in less than 5 seconds. He also at one point was very upset, and shook with rage while pointing to a classmate saying, "He call me 'banana.' He call me 'BANANA!' " I looked at his friend, and then back at this adorable little perpetual motion machine. "Are you a banana?" I asked. "NO! I not a banana!" he replied. He looked at me like I was completely dense until he realized that he desperately needed to take off his glasses and twirl them while trying to tilt on one leg of his chair. Now that's classroom management...
(Note to self, when some of these children are mine on Monday-small favors: Banana is not one of them- work on routines)

Another highlight of the day was in the other classroom. A child who started just today (and therefore has the fortune of being a member of my classroom, due to the system designed by the principal- I get all of the late registries) felt the need to tattle on everyone for everything. One of his better tattles was, "Hey Teacher. Teacher! He was looking at her BUTT!" There is nothing like the hilarity of a classroom of five year olds who hears the word "butt," it slays them every single time. I think I'll have to invest in a little book called "How to Lose All Your Friends," by Nancy L. Carlson, or I'll be up to my eyeballs in this craziness of banana and butt allegations.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Kindergarten Clara

The day I was interviewed, I was memorable in a few key areas, which is why I think I was just hired to teach Kindergarten.

#1: I wore a suit. SUNY Geneseo, if nothing else at all, prepared us in the area of appearance. If we so much as showed up to a field visit with a hint of flesh, we were ripped off the bus so fast, our early morning alfalfa high was just shot all to hell for the rest of the day. Nothing like the extreme wrath of an early literacy programs professor. The other girl who nervously tapped her way through waiting in what has to be the smallest office room ever wore a lasagna strap pink knit shirt, with black Express "clubbing" pants (aka "I can see your thong") and sandal-y shoes.

And what was probably the crowning touch:

#2: I was a total space cadet just as the interview ended. There were about five minutes before the principal was due to meet with Blonde Express Pants Girl, and he gestured towards my left hand, saying, "We have a little time, can I see that?" Me, being the extreme shnook that I am, thought he was talking about my bling, and held my bejeweled fingers out to him. "No, um, I meant your portfolio," the very befuddled principal stammered.


Well, I suppose at the end of the day, all that matters is that now my life is about to revolve around the little brains of 20+ five-year olds, and their various parents. When I give little anecdotes about the hilarty of this age group, I will have to change their names, of course; I want to avoid law suits at least until I'm teaching Biology somewhere. Then, they can bring it.