So What is a Second Grader Like?

I think with the “behindedness” that I am experiencing these days, I should go to a form of writing I don’t like but that is much quicker for me. I will bullet out my thoughts from my Day in the Life of a 2nd grade class.

A. Even at second grade, I am finding the “like” virus everywhere. I still wonder if this propensity for using “like” is because we are weak at metaphorical thought, or because we are embarrassed by it, or what. But it is certainly, like, everywhere.

B. Some 2nd graders like to share their lives with others (show and tell was huge, raised hands are not answers but experiences that either agree with the class content or are totally unrelated), while others are quite private and would rather not let folks in. We had a moment where the teacher gave us the option of calling out our score on a math sheet for her to enter in the grade book, or you go up and whisper it to her. Some who did well still wanted to whisper, and some who did rather poorly, still were comfortable calling it out.

C. One exercise I really enjoyed and the kids seemed to find new and interesting was an exercise in identifying cause and effect in literature. What a splendid thing for young minds to become aware of and begin seeking in their experience. It came up several times during that day’s discussions.

D. These guys love to collect things. Show and tell was full of collections: stuffed animals, coins, souvenirs, etc. I think at the heart of this is the delight of comparison coupled with our human desire to “have” possessions. What amazes me is the diversity of interest. For some, it must be the “best” and thus tends toward being expensive. For others it can be “refuse.” By that I mean used gum wrappers, wads of paper, paper clips, etc. But almost without exception, 2nd graders seem to enjoy collecting and to admire their peers’ collections.

E. I again had the interesting experience (as an adult trying to be what I am not – 7 years old) of seeking to truly enter in and compete in classroom competitions, and yet not crush anyone. Our class was practicing for their spelling bee and it came down to me and one other student. Fortunately (and I will be ambiguous here on whether it was accidental or purposeful — you can allow your own opinions here) the teacher asked for b-r-e-e-z-e and I spelled b-r-e-a-t-h-e. The other student spelled breeze correctly and I was defeated.

F. Manipulatives in math are just down right cool. I had to step out and be headmaster for a few minutes. When I got back, we were going to be using some coins. When my hand went into my desk this whole bag of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters had appeared! What a wonderful magical moment for me this was. I have always believed the good teacher seeks to be part magician in the classroom and this one pulled it off!

G. As seems to happen almost every time, I got so into class, I forgot to leave and go teach my own class!

H. Second graders are like all of us – justice needs boundaries. At recess we were playing soccer without clear sidelines. This was very frustrating for all involved. Two folks would just keep working the ball farther and farther to one side until it was clear they were “out” but we had no definition of that line so invariably the call which finally was made was questioned by someone.

I. The justice issue is all the more clear when you consider how powerful competition is for them. Seeking to be the best, to do something well, to rise to the top is powerful, but it makes for a lot of moral and ethical issues. Teachers must have incredible wisdom to steer competition properly without defeating virtue. This needs a lot of discussion, as it needs a lot of wisdom.

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