Westward Movement

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beautiful Moment

Today, as we were in the middle of writing workshop, one of my kids came to tell me that D was crying. D is a 5th grader, mildly autistic, who just exited the program offering extra academic support. He's gentle and kind, and rarely emotional. He had his head buried in his arms, and was sobbing. I asked his best friend, J, if he knew what was going on. J suggested D was frustrated with the writing, and felt it was too hard. I put my arm around D's shoulders and hugged him gently, asking if he was frustrated, if something hurt, if there was something going on that was making him sad. He shook his head, but continued to sob. I was concerned ... this was not usual at all.

It was just before the kids had to go down for lunch. I told D I'd walk the kids down and bring his lunch back upstairs to him. He nodded, continuing to cry. J helped me pick out good choices for his D's lunch. I returned to the classroom, and D was no longer crying. I put his lunch down, and asked him if he could tell me why he'd been so upset. Before I tell you the rest of the story, remember that D is autistic - albeit mildly. However, autistic kids tend to communicate differently - often unemotionally, and often lacking ability to express feelings as other children might. 

D looked at me, and in the sweetest, most honest manner possible, said, "I really don't know, Ms. Stern. I was writing down the story ideas, and I just got a memory of something. It made me so sad and I started crying, but I don't even know what it was. I just felt it."

I had to swallow hard. I told him I had experienced the very same thing many, many times. I told him that his reaction simply demonstrated what a caring, feeling, loving boy he was, and that it was so okay. He was a little surprised I'd had a similar experience. We talked a little more. I told him he could always share his thoughts with me. To that, he responded, "I know I can tell you anything, Ms. Stern." From a child with autism, this was huge. I shared with my dear friend and colleague, Jamie, what had transpired. She reminded me that this is what teaching is all about. How right she is. The warmth I feel right now will stay with me through all the frustrating moments I'll face this year.

D and I finished our conversation with an orange. He told me he'd never eaten an orange, as he'd never thought he'd like it. I suggested he try a wedge, showed him how to eat it, and he decided it was delicious. I must say, that school orange was one of the juiciest, sweetest oranges I've ever had. Or, maybe it was the company and the experience that made that orange one incredible, tasty bite. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

The kids are back!

How many of us get hugs and kisses in the workplace? Today, I was greeted with "I missed you so much." "I'm so glad to be back - I was pretty bored this summer." (We'll see how long that lasts)! "Ms. Stern, can I have one more hug?" Talk about amazing drugs! 

The hardest thing about teaching a multiage class is adapting to "family" that have moved on. The kids, especially my fifth grade girls, miss the older kids a lot. However, they quickly take on elder sisterhood with the new third graders. 

One of those "elders" placed a wonderful note on my desk today. It read, "I am so happy to be back. I am excited about learning new things and showing all I can do. I love you, Ms. Stern." 

No words ... just Yippee! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ready for day one

As I was going through my desk, tossing and organizing, my dear friend and colleague in the room next door, Lisa, came in to show me a torn piece of art done over 15 years ago ... a foot from an above life-sized torn paper figure she simply can't thrown away. It's attached to a story she'll never forget. All of us have something we keep that takes us immediately back to the moment of occurrence. 

Lisa left, and I kept on tossing and cleaning, and I came upon my own memory - a piece of paper on which I'd written a statement from one of my students several years ago. We were studying metaphor and simile, and B said, "If metaphors were real, the Grateful Dead would be a bunch of skeletons." I laughed hysterically and uttered my amazement at his brilliant thought. 

B has gone on to middle school, but finding the scrap of paper on which I'd written made me excited again for new funnies, new brilliance and new experiences. 

Until Monday - happy weekend, all.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting the room ready

Every year I switch it up. New table arrangements. New way of sharing supplies. New schedule. I know I speak for so many teachers when I say we spend so much time and so much energy building a shell for the community we hope to establish. This year, #21, is no exception. I laid out gift bags of supplies after carefully considering where each student should sit. The beauty of a multiage class is that I know nearly all the kids, and can figure out where they'll be most successful. The frustration is that my knowledge causes me to spend several minutes on each child, and before I know it, an hour passes and I'm still thinking I should switch kids around. I'll probably go to my old standby - let the kids put themselves together with some basic expectations. 

Two days of meetings and professional development begin tomorrow, with the kids coming Monday. I'm excited to see them. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day one - anticipation

Spending a few days prior to the new year setting up the classroom. Trying out a new configuration, getting rid of some stuff, reorganizing ... all in the job. I am not alone. The parking lot is filled with cars from 7am to 4pm, and everyone is coming in with bags of new supplies. I work with people who care, who are excited to be where we are, who take pride in presenting a wonderful environment and helping children become anything they wish.