One Sunflower

do you see what I see?

on February 2, 2010

Our elementary school has a great relationship with our local university and we often have interns working in our building.  I love being a part of their learning experience because I think the scrutiny heightens my own awareness of practice.  I pay more attention to my work – trying to get “tight” – as we say around here.

There are four university students spending time this quarter in the preschool and kindergarten classrooms.  Last week they each took a turn reading a story out loud to a small group of students.  This week they are doing observations.  One of them spent practically the whole day in my classroom today! I think that’s fantastic.  I found myself viewing everything in my head like a split screen tv – one side through novice eyes, the other side reviewing events and interactions through my usual professional lens.  I just wish I really knew what the scene looked like and sounded like for the intern.  Here’s how I played it out in my head – some of the novice questions are ones the intern asked.

Novice: 

Why is the teacher using a check in paper with a blank face and instructions written in Spanish?

Teacher:

We’ve been reviewing how to draw bodies and facial expressions again.  This paper is in Spanish but it’s a great picture of a face and I don’t plan on sending it home anyway.  I want to see what the students do with it.  If they happen to ask what it says, I’ll explain it to them and see what else they do.  I’ll get all sorts of information from the experience.

Novice:

Those boys are pretty wild at the breakfast table, poking each other, bumping heads, not paying attention to the teacher’s requests.

Teacher:

Ah, Alpha is sitting with Zed, that’s a new combination.  Sure they’re being more silly and physical than I would prefer but their activities aren’t impacting anyone else for the most part.  At least Alpha seems to be off to a good start.  I’m going to let some of the rudeness go so that our morning stays positive.

Novice:

mmm, she says she took away the calendar because the students were messing up the numbers,  is that “consequences” or what?

Teacher:

I’ve spoken to the classroom on more than one occasion about using the calendar appropriately.  I love for them to practice counting and play teacher but I also want a functional calendar when it comes time for morning jobs.   I want them to realize what it means to lose a privilege.  I’ve put together a calendar they can play with and will put it out tomorrow.  Besides, it’s the beginning of the month and we’d only be counting to 5 this week so it’s a good week to miss out on counting experience – we can do that in a lot of other ways.  We’ll still do the weather and our reciting of the letters in the words “cloudy” and “sunny,” etc.  

Novice:

This must be a skill and drill practice. Does it matter that she’s not giving everyone a turn? She’s moving on to the read-aloud pretty quickly – I wonder if this is the same group I read to last week?

Teacher:

I want to find out if my students are hearing initial sounds in words.  I’m going to use this quick exercise to check out who has this skill.   The small card has a picture of socks, ‘sss’, the long strip has a bird, a sun, and a man.  Ahhh, two students got the match of socks and sun right away.  Everyone is repeating the words and sounds with me, good.  Their ears will develop and I’ve found at least 5 students who can model this skill for the rest.   I’m introducing a new book today.   Good, the intern will get to see the difference between the two groups as one is better with their English.

Novice:

So this is free choice time.  They are pretty excited about the water table.  I wonder what kinds of things the teacher puts in that table – has she ever done water before?  The kids have made snowmen out of some sort of modeling clay and they are attaching eyes and beads with glue.  They look pretty cool.  This little group of girls keeps bringing me stuffed animals and birthday cakes.  It’s fun to watch everybody, they seem to be playing pretty well.

Teacher:

The kids were begging for the water to come back so I changed out the sand.  I put a number 4 on the side of the box and only 4 aprons as a way to control how many are in that center.  It will take a bit more management today because it is new and exciting.  We haven’t had water in there since December.  I meant to have the kids work on their Model Magic snowmen last week but we got distracted by other events I guess.  It will be interesting to see if anything sticks after they dry – I hope so.  One little painter is putting dye-cut scraps onto her painting – I’ve got to remember to cut some more, they really love to add those to their work.   Alpha and Beta are playing well with the Legos today – it is best when it’s just the two of them.  It’s a good thing I have a lot of centers going today, less conflict because they are all spread out.  Keeps me on my toes to have this much going on!!

Novice:

Discipline issue – child not coming to circle, wonder what the teacher is going to do.  I noticed that one child didn’t want to be at the table during the read-aloud and the teacher let her wander.  It was distracting to the other students but eventually the child came back to the group.  Now there is a boy refusing to come to circle time and he’s hiding behind the teacher’s desk.

Teacher:

The hardest transition of the day…to our last circle time.  I let Daisy leave the table at group time because she is young, it is in her nature to be obstinate and stubborn and I’ve decided I want her to choose to stay at group – not be made to be there.  But Alpha hiding behind my desk is another matter.  He’s going to kindergarten next year and this behavior is extreme.  I’ll name his choices – the rug, the green pillow or a trip to the office.  And then I need to wait for him to respond.  Good, he makes a choice to go to the green pillow.  I’m going to start drawing my story on the paper — sure enough, he’s right at my shoulder, curious and eager to participate.  Same thing happened with Daisy – if I make it interesting and stay pleasant and cheerful, the students usually want to participate – kids like school when it’s interesting and fun.   After my story, the kids get their journals and begin their own writing.  We’re working on our narrative elements – character, setting and the “so what” of our stories.  So you went to the store – so what?  So this is a picture of your whole family, so what?  Hopefully I’m going to help my kids move beyond what the K and 1st grade teachers describe as the “Wal-Mart story” – I went to Wal-Mart – or Disneyland – or grandmas – or the movies…. SO WHAT?  – You’ve got to add the “what happened” to your story!  

The intern left just before lunch.  I think she saw a pretty good day – Alpha was testy but not out of control, Buster Brown didn’t whine or pester too much and my princesses didn’t have cat fights over dolls, dress-up or dogs. 

The journal writing was a bit unwieldy because I forgot to assign conferees to Maestra and I – I also let them use markers and they bled through the paper.  I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to handle all the finished snowmen – maybe a quick trip home in a zip-lock bag is the best bet.  And I’ve got to keep all my centers going strong!

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2 responses to “do you see what I see?

  1. Matt Miller says:

    Onesunflower, I so appreciate your internal dialogue about your literacy/language practice and the actual and hypothetical questions asked by a novice teacher. This, and your overall blog, will give us much to discuss in terms of your intentions, how they play out “on the ground”, and your subsequent thinking. Thank you for modeling and sharing such a reflective and transparent practice!

    • onesunflower says:

      Edited your response a bit just to preserve my anonymity – as tenuous as it is!!
      Thanks for joining in the conversation – I hope your students will engage and challenge me!

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