Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My Kids

My world of 'intuitive living' officially ended 06/17/08. That was the first day the bootcamp teaching program that I enrolled in begun. I had to say good-bye to many habits that I had grown quite fond of- sleeping 8, 9, and shamefully sometimes 10 hours a night; leisurely grinding my own coffee beans and enjoying sipping from my yellow Falmouth mug whilst sitting on the floor and gazing at the dog walkers strolling past my building; running. The latter habit was the most shocking to lose. During that first week of teacher-training, one night I set my alarm for 4:30 am to squeeze in a run before a 9 hour day of graduate classes. The alarm went off and I realized that I had to complete a paper in that time. Something finally took priority over running. I didn't like my new schedule one bit. I felt under a microscope in my classes, with the constant threat of forced group discussions lurking in every corner. I was a fish out of water, suffocating in my desire to learn in solitude. After the first two weeks, 5 pounds lighter and sufficiently sleep-deprived, we had all completed 6 graduate credits. That was a nice little reward. I was dying to go out for a run. The next morning I showed up for my summer school placement, where I would be an observing teacher in a classroom with a cooperating teacher. I showed up with 3 other fellows. They didn't have as many kids as they expected enrolled, and one of us had to go home. I volunteered. Walking down Amsterdam and eying the Dunkin Donuts, I wondered if that was the end of my teaching career. Shouldn't a new teacher jump on every opportunity to learn her trade? I felt strange, doubting my own commitment to this new profession. But I was thrilled that I finally had time to go for a run. Despite the heat and humidity, I was smiling throughout my six mile loop of the park. I passed the Central Park police precinct and smelled a strong odor of Neccos candies or a million carnations. What was that? Whatever it was, I wouldn't be smelling it for long. I got a call from my field advisor (we had many advisors) telling me that they could now take me at my placement school, and I was to show up the next morning. Now it was all starting to feel real. As I walked down the street the next morning to the school,I had that jittery, first-day-of-school feeling, but in a grown-up way. I was excited to meet my new kids. I walked into Ms. H's class. Right away I could tell she was a strong teacher, with strong ideas about how to teach. She greeted me coolly, and said under her breath that there was a gentleman placed with her the other day, and she even wore her best perfume, but he didn't return. Her humor made me laugh, and I knew I was going to like her. She introduced me to the children, and they all took turns greeting me. After a mini-lesson in setting up a graphic organizer to pull out the main idea and details of a story, Ms. H. had the kids go back to their seats to get to work. I'm always shocked by the content of 2nd grade curriculum. A graphic organizer? I think I just learned what that was- last year. So 7-yr-olds can grasp this concept? I think we need a new reality show- 'Are you smarter than a second grader?' Half the class was missing their front teeth. It's impossible to get mad at someone who has no front teeth. I brought a chair over to help Fahema with paragraph format. I opened her text book to a random page to show her how it looked. There was a photo of a lobster facing us. As she was writing her paragraph, she kept looking back at the book for reference. In her tiny smurf voice, she said, 'That lobster is freaking me out.' They're so cute!! But I wasn't suppossed to be appreciating their cuteness, I was suppossed to be learning how to help them succeed academically. Fahema seemed to not need my help. I moved on to another table. Fernando hadn't started yet. I asked him if he knew what the main idea was. He answered me by telling me in Spanish that he is a grandfather. I impressed his friend by answering in English that he is too young to be a grandfather. He still didn't get to work, until Ms. H. came by and questioned why he had nothing written on his paper. I felt guilty for not staying on task. Funny, but I felt myself turning into a second grader in that class. I think the kids started catching on to this, and they would look out for me so I wouldn't get into trouble with the teacher. One day when they dealt out bag lunches for the upcoming field trip to the transit museum, I was given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch. Ms. H. asked all the children to put their lunches in their backpacks, and to keep them on task, she told them she wanted it done by the time she counted down from 20 (this is a very effective trick for getting others to do what you want in a timely fashion. I am waiting for an appropriate opportunity to use this on my friends). Felipe noticed that my bag lunch was still sitting on the desk. He called over to me, 'Ms. S., you can put your lunch in my backpack if you want.' Those kids started really mattering to me, and eventhough I didn't think I knew enough about teaching to be a real teacher, I did feel confident that if we could go on field trips every day, I'd be the best teacher in the world. The last day of summer school, the kids surprised me by each presenting me with a hand drawn card with a letter thanking me for helping them with their reading and writing. Martin drew a picture of a shark with blood on its teeth and two people in its mouth- one was Ms. S., and the other was him, with an arrow explaining that he was saving Ms. S.
Aw! So now summer school is over, and Ms. S. is unemployed. She's been pounding the pavement, but somehow that great teacher shortage seems to have been a myth. I'm almost hoping so, as the thought of having my very own class with no Ms. H. to help with the discipline and keeping us on task is quite daunting.