This blog will suffer for being put off for too many days. I spent the day in a First Grade classroom again on Oct. 24, 2007 and have not blogged until now. But I did have some notes to work off of. It will be short and disjointed, though the day was neither.
I noticed that whenever a young mind finds a blank sheet of paper in front of them, they are earnest to get something marked on it, even if it is just meaningless markings.
Movement and boredom are connected (surprise!). When a young mind gets restless, it transmits right to his legs, arms, and bottom.
The culture of our school was at work on me. We train our students to stand when answering a question, and I felt guilty when I realized I had failed to do just that when I was called upon. I noticed the teacher did not choose to correct me, but it was near pay day!
New is novel. This class in particular, but all of them so far have had the constant need to look at me, over and over, as I have “invaded” their turf. This is new, what is he doing now, is he pulling his weight, is he done with the worksheet yet, etc. Makes me a little self conscious, and so far I have resisted all urges to waggle my fingers while my thumb is on my nose.
One thing I have learned about my self is my anxiety over math. I have never loved it, but I have often done well in it. Now, back in K, First, I find myself seeking to “prove” to myself that I can do it. We played round the world and I wanted to win, to beat these punks, to be the best math guy out there – but then I got ahold of the emotions and enjoyed the contest, not winning in the end, but nonetheless enjoying it.
I would generalize the above into the whole conversation about the role of competition in the classroom. We live in a society of competitive experience, and many would state that we prepare kids in our school for such by teaching them how to compete in a godly manner. But such things do bring out some rather unvirtuous habits. Kids in competition get louder, “pushy,” beam whenever they win, frown and sometimes pout when they loose, and rarely can a teacher fashion a game that allows for these things to be addressed other than in general ways, so the habits persist rather than leading to learning moments. This worth a lot more thought than I am giving it here.
I did see the teacher emphasizing the importance of double checking one’s work and the experience of both the one student who did and learned thereby and the other who did not and made some careless mistakes. How can we cultivate this attentive habit in our students?
I think every kid in First grade has a type “I” personality, meaning they want to have a moment in the sun each day, be up on the stage, etc. They bask in being front and center. Two thoughts come from that: A) What are the positives and negatives of this tendency? B) What can be done to promote humility in students who love attention?
Another interesting observation was the forward flow. I have noticed this in middle school, but it is very clear in First grade (especially when marked by masking tape) that kids slowly move their desks toward the front of the room during the day. One young man made about 8 inches of progress during the day. What does this mean? I don’t know, but it was fascinating to watch.
Do you remember with me the old contest: “How long can you hold your drink of water in your mouth?” I loved that game. I remember making it from recess to lunch one day in third grade. That would indicate that at least on that day I was rather non-participative. It also indicates some wierd taste for really tepid water!
There is also connected to water and water fountains the need to instruct kids in water fountain ettiquette. You don’t touch any part of the water fountain except the lever. Boys seem to love to break this rule, big time.
Another issue of ettiquette is “staring.” They know they can bug each other just by staring. A common sharp whisper or retort is, “Stop staring at me.” They will even tell on each other for this – “Jimmie is staring at me, teacher, make him stop.” This is all great fun and I have almost no answers on how to solve this other than the teacher staring back.
That gets me to my final and somewhat negative observation: These guys love to tell on each other. What is that all about and how should a godly teacher handle it? Would love input on this. Is it a fallacy of diversion? If I get her to nail him, she won’t be looking at my sin. Is that it? Or is there some fallen perversity of pleasure gained from getting others in trouble? Again, fewer answers, mostly questions, but I had a great time. Really tired after this one. But it’s on to 2nd grade! Next day comes up Nov. 30, check back for more shortly after.