Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bubble Boys

Dear Kindergarten Families,

Brace yourselves. You have a job. You can do this, and I will take you step-by-step through what really is an easy process. Please sign your name anywhere on this paper. Or, another piece of paper. That is all you need to do...

Well, today I was told by a hippie-in-the-know, that apparantly Mercury this month was in retrograde, there was a full moon, a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse and an equinox. I happen to think this is merely a reason to own a telescope, but it may have something to do with the fact that some of my kids have resorted to a primal state of being. Either way, today I experienced:

The Spring Field Trip: Children's Museum
I purposely gave myself Octopus Child, Quiet Instigator (as he has taken to stealing anything not nailed down) and Whiner. One of my chaperones was Limited English's mother, and I gave her LE, Selective Hearing Boy, and Smiling Boy. She chose to tag along with me, as she speaks even less than her son. So, off we went, Octopus clinging to various peers, pieces of scenery, and a startled museum staff member. Quiet Instigator instantly became lost, slinking away as soon as he heard me say to stay with us. Limited English's mother gamely smiled and shrugged and looked puzzled as we searched high and low for him. He was found moments later by another kindergarten teacher, who caught him near the exits. Apparantly he was about to hotwire a bus and take it to the Southside, but you know how rumors get started. Anyways...
This museum was completely the bomb. There was so much to see and do, we only were able to do half of what was there. As we had six boys, everything we did involved a mess and possibly some crashing into one another. We started at the giant water table, and my lecture about NOT CLIMBING INTO THE WATER. They did take me literally, and instead brought the water to one another through the various toys and water pumps availible. Octopus Child and Whiner spent ten angry minutes sitting in a window sill drying in the sun after they each dumped a cup of water over the other's head, and then cried hysterically. I just merrily laughed and popped some loose Valium that was floating by (thank you, super-coked Suburban Moms) and told them that their tears were only making them wetter.
We moved on to the next phase of this crazy adventure. Yes folks, they are now giving kids real saws, hammers, nails and screws. Each of my little guys tried their darndest to make racecars, and most of them actually accomplished something kinda neat! Especially Limited English, who pounded on my fingernails repeatedly in the process.
We ended the day at the bubble tank, where I discovered that it's some kind of strange fad 'round these parts to travel in packs of women who bring their day-old infants to what has to be the biggest petri dish on the face of the planet. And then, hover them near six year olds who are blowing thousands of bubbles with Hyper-Sting brand bubble solution. They finish their day by glaring angrily at me when I purposely pop bubbles over their heads to teach them the lesson that they are idiots, and I need to bring my home-tatoo parlor equipment next time to label them just so no one else has to find out the hard way that they are living life without common sense. The Bubble Tank was truly rad until a child threw bubble solution into Octopus Child's eyes, and I had the extreme pleasure of holding him head first under a sink to wash it out, while he kicked me until bruises formed. We all boarded the bus, several exhausted chaperones and I, and the super-energized kids; thanking our lucky stars once more that no one was lost, no one did anything more than moderate damage to property, and the public nudity was kept to a minimum.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Creed of the Effective Teacher

The Creed of the United States Marine
This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will . . . . My rifle and I know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit . . . . My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights, and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will . . . . Before God I swear this creed.My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but Peace!

The Creed of the Effective Teacher
This is my classroom. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My classroom is my daily blank slate. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My classroom, without effective management, is useless. Without effective management, I am useless.
I must fully engage my students. I must engage them more than the societal evils that are trying to drag my students down. I must get to them before apathy and ignorance tear them down. I will . . . .
My fellow effective teachers and I know that what counts in this daily battle is not the tests we distribute, the popularity of our consistent discipline, nor the crafty projects we make. We know that it is the students that count. We will teach . . .
My students are human, even as I, because they are my life. Thus, I will teach them as I am a guide. I will learn their weaknesses, their strengths, their home lives, their parents, their peers, and their habits. I will ever guard my classroom against the ravages of poverty and violence.
I will keep my lesson plans flexible and ready, even as I am flexible and ready. We will become part of each other. We will . . .
Before God I swear this creed.My classroom and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our futures. So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but Peace!
Thanks, Mark!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Ways of Feathers (and such)

What an odd feeling: that I just finished testing my kindergartners for report cards, and here I am doing it again! At least my toils seem to be paying off, and my little hedgehogs are all putting thought to paper. At least, they are writing their lists of likes, which includes:

"I lik pig, cat, igloo, Centers, Jan Brett..." (Their likes seem to be somewhat restricted to things that are posted around the room!)

Yesterday as we were leaving the classroom at the end of the day (still a feat of strength, complete with the sort of stalling that only a pack of wild five year olds can do), Limited English Speaker discovered the joys of New Student's down jacket. New Student has an unusual name, and the best Limited English can do with it is to call him "Bone." So, he happily yelled out to me, "Hey teesher, Bone's losing he feathers!" as he pulled a bit of fluff from New Student's jacket. This spawned an attempt by every member of the boy's line to pluck New Student frantically, causing him to twist in circles while yelling, "I'm NOT BONE!!!" Down the hallway we went, Limited English asking the whole way, "Why Bone losing he feathers? Hey, why I not have feathers? Bone a bird? Ahahaha..."

There is a little girl in my class who has probably been absent for a third of the school year. She is a beautifully angelic, quiet, polite little girl. She also, unfortunately, is one of my handful who has had DCFS involved with her family in the past weeks.
She came in today, and I took the kids out to the playground for PE. Usually, she stands silently by my side the entire time we are outside, hands shoved in her pockets, staring. Today she did the same, silently standing beside me and bearing witness to one maniacal child after another wreaking havoc on their clothing.

Until, she suddenly sprang for the monkey bars. I have never seen her move so fast. The other kids who were on them were so surprised; they backed away, and watched. She moved quickly, going many feet over my head to the top, and then shimmying up the pole to the upper support beams. She scootched up onto her knees, closed her eyes, and without expression, let go of the bar and held out her arms as if she were going to fall forward.

I couldn't breathe. What was God tossing at me now?

Everything stood still- the other kids sat on the platform below her with their mouths open. I placed myself underneath her, and too scared to talk (I thought I'd startle her off her perch) just waited. And asked every guardian angel of every child present to be with me now.

Seconds ticked by.

Finally, she opened her eyes, and without changing her expressionless face, placed both arms beside her, slid back down, climbed down the stairs and resumed her position. I knelt down in front of her. She looked at me and said, "I didn't zip my coat." I zipped her coat, and I looked into her face, and wished I could take her away from whatever was causing her to be way too old for kindergarten. She stared back, unblinking.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

More Musings from my Munchkins…

Posting opportunities have been few and far between… between the various school mandated functions (disfunctions?) and moments in the classroom that are far from funny (why am I the only kindergarten class this year with at least four DCFS calls? Oh yeah, because God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and I can do this… really, I can…) I haven’t had a lot of material.

As with most things, however, there still are parts of the day that make me so happy to know these little people.

* Cute Little Guy That I Want to Adopt: Comes up to me with a mixture of embarrassment and hopefulness, wearing light tan pants and a white tee- “Mrs. Clarateaches, my dad said it was okay to wear two different shades of white. Is it okay?”

* Girl Who Likes to Copy Me: Yesterday walked over to me and started to lightly color on my arm with a light peach crayon.

Me: “What’s up, Girl?”
Girl: “Hey Mrs. Clarateaches, I finally found a crayon that is the same color as your skin!” She happily trots back to her seat to finish her journal.

Later, this same girl was choosing books from our Family Time box.

Me: “Here are the English books, and these ones are the Spanish ones.”
Girl: Drops one book, and eagerly paws through Spanish ones: “Oh, I want these ones! You know, Mrs. Clarateaches, I really get sick of speaking English…”

I need a substitute later next week, so I’m sure their versions of the day without Mrs. Clarateaches should be intensely amusing!