Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Here's a Lizard...

I've decided that one of these days I will tape record conversations my kids make during a lesson, just because the way this age group discusses things is just so gosh-darned hilarious. Today I was compelled to do a little from our Harcourt Language Arts series, as my mentor teacher gave me a quizzical look the other day during lunch and asked, "What unit are you on in English?"

Gulp. Actually, we've been working on various Thanksgiving and Fall activities, up until this week. We graphed our travel plans, made a Venn diagram comparing the Pilgrims to the Wampanoag (yeah, my kindergartners know who the "Wampanoag" were... jealous?) and wrote recipes for Thanksgiving food with our third grade buddies. I knew that this was worthwhile when a normally recalcitrant student (Limited English Speaker) brought in a bow that he made out of a bent stick and some string.

So, out came the Harcourt, which told me to read the kids a poem entitled "Dogs," and read a book called "I Have A Pet." We took a "picture walk" of the book before we read it, and my kids created a much better rendition of the story than the original author did:

Me: (holding up the book to an illustration of kids standing in line holding various pets) "What's happening on this page?"

Quiet Instigator: "They're at school!"

Me: "How do you know?"

Various kids shouted, "They're standing in a line! We only stand in line at school!" Well gee whiz, the little sugars are right.

We flipped through the pages, looking at various types of pets.

Octopus Child: "There's a dog! He's taking a bath!"

Little Clara: "You don't take a bath with dogs, do you?"

Choruses of "Eww, gross!"

Giggling, Whispering Girl: "My kitten jumped into the bath with me, she was mad and tried to run away. She's dead now."

Everyone at once: "'My cat's dead, too! ','My cat ran away... ', 'So did mine!'"

I turn the page. An illustration of a lizard and a child feeding it a cricket.

Octopus Child: "I had a dream a green lizard was gettin' me. I don't like 'em, they scratch me!"

Girl Who Likes to Copy Me: "She's feeding him a grasshopper, right Mrs. C?"

Little Clara: "NO! It's a cockroach. My mom just kills them, she doesn't feed them to a lizard."

We flipped through the rest of the book, managing to have a large scattered conversation about the best ways to feed a hamster, as well as the short lives of everyone's pets. A page with a pet bird illustration elicited uprorious laughter, with my kids insisting that birds don't live inside (with a few people insisting that yes, they do!) When I tried to read the book, though; the kids weren't that interested in what the author had to write (some mildly interesting blurbs on various animals and the ways that they are cared for). So much for the Harcourt. We didn't even get halfway through it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kids These Days

Oh man, just when I think I've found a way to control hysterical outbursts of laughing. I try hard to not laugh when my kids bust a move, just because I really don't want to have to manage with 24 kids trying to be funny. Have you ever experienced a child who is trying way too hard to be funny? Yeah, it's sad.

Octopus Child and I were perusing a book entitled The Desert. He picked it out and proudly told me it was about "'Piders." We glanced through the book together while high school students, members of the elite "Key Club" were "reading books" to my kids.

[Which meant, one teen girl was enticing my kids to race chairs, another sat with her head in her hands while my bewildered kids instantly resorted to cannibalism, and the third actually (hey, how about that?) read a book.]

After being Mean Mrs. Clarateaches and giving these young impressionable ladies the evil eye, Octopus and I returned to The Desert and looked for the elusive 'piders. He called each cactus in the book a spider, and when we found a photo of a coyote, happily wrapped one of his chubby tentacles around my head and yelled, "It's a werewolf!"

"It's a coyote," I patiently explained while extracting myself from his grasp. "Say 'coyote.'"

"It's a coyote werewolf. I don't like them, they hump on you," he explained, turning the pages to try to find more werewolves. Gotta love those teachable moments.

Actually, you have to love those moments when kids learn something the hilarious way. After three days of telling Quiet Instigator to stop stealing the Fun-Tac from the back of the posters I stuck to my walls, I found him sitting miserably at the rug as the rest of the kids dashed off to Centers (aka, "Destroy The Room Time.")

"Q.I., why aren't you going to your center?" I asked, wondering why his hand was on his head.

He slowly lifted his hand to reveal that he had stuck about a good half-dollar sized blob of Fun-Tac in his hair, which was sticking straight up in a blue spike. I forced myself to look really grim while I struggled with trying to not laugh. I sent him to the nurse, just so I could die laughing when he was out of the room. My students gave each other the "I-told-you-she'd-crack-before-Christmas" look, and carried about their business. Five minutes later the nurse marched Q.I. back into the room, blue spike still intact.

"Boy, I don't know how to prepare for what you kindergarten teachers send me; first a giant woodchip in a kid's ear, and now this..." the nurse said. She and I mulled the situation over until we discovered that the maintenence man had Goo-B-Gone, and a Fun-Tac-free Q.I. with an oily patch in his hair happily bounced over to the Legos to end his day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Black& Brown & White...

I was kind of waiting and wondering when this would happen... My very diverse group of kindergarteners seemed to all of a sudden realize that they are different. This happened yesterday at approximately 3:14, when we were supposed to be leaving.

Now, in an ordinary school on an ordinary day, it seems to me that kids would be climbing all over themselves to get out the door. Not my kids- they drag their feet, and hide in the bathroom, and lay on the floor under the table just to drag out dismissal time. This causes us to be some of the last kids out of the building. Since some of my kindergarteners have VERY COOL PARENTS who choose to not wear coats or jackets or even a top with sleeves when it's 45* F, I get some pretty adolescent looking snarls and glares as I finally drag their unwilling little feet out the door. In my head I am composing a Budweiser-type advertising song about these people, these "Mr. I-Can't-Leave-High-School-Behind" types. I'll let you know if I come up with a whole one, but in the meantime I just smile like a psycho and wave wildly as my kids leave.

Where was I? Oh yeah. It's like that moment in time when kids see what the other gender looks like. One of my students, the girl who likes to copy me, looked up at me and said, "You're white, right Mrs. Clarateaches?"

"Yes, we call people who have this kind of skin white."

Another little boy, Introspective Child, who has a white and a black parent piped up. "I have brown skin, I'm not white."

"No, you're black!" yelled my little Octopus Child, and before he had a chance to clutch at Introspective Child's arm, I intercepted him. There needs to be an Olympics for this sort of thing.

"He's brown, but he's not a Mexican," commented the girl who likes to copy me (who is of Hispanic heritage).

The dismissal bell had already gone off by now, and the first graders were herding past our door. I explained that people are a lot of different shades of peach and brown, but most people call people with lighter skin "white," and darkest skin "black," and that it's always nice to find out more about people. By this point, I was spatula-ing them out the door and into the hallway. Why can't these Vivian Gussein Paley moments happen during the day, dangitall anyways? My students, especially the ones of color, were still looking perplexed. Introspective Child pinched his arm all the way down the hall, and Girl Who Likes to Copy Me was trying to hold her arm by mine to compare the skin tones.

Hoping this continues, I'm really curious about what else they will say. This seems to be one of those discussions where it really needs to be child-led, as honesty will really be a lot more refreshing than a PC talk about how we're all the same, blendy-blendy, and color-blind blah blah blah. They know much better than that- and what's wrong with that?