Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dear Parent of the Average Child - One Teacher's Confession

Dear Parent of the Average Child,

I'm sorry. Your child is wonderful.  She is always at school on time, does her homework most everyday, works well on her own and is patient with those around her.  I really wanted  to go tell your daughter how proud of her I was of the work she was doing today.

I was about to but you see I had a young girl  over in the corner crying because she hadn't had breakfast. Another was tromping around the classroom in winter boots. It's May. When I asked her to change she told me she didn't have any other shoes. I needed to send them and my CEA down to the office to see if we had some food and any extra shoes in lost and found. 

Oh and over in the other corner there was a  boy screaming at the top of his lungs because, well no one is sure why. He is on a list to see a specialist, they hope to have a plan in place for him soon. Of course it has been 3 months, but the specialist teacher is overworked and only at our school a few days a week so we have to be patient. 

More children trickled in. One girl told me that her backpack is at Mom's but she was at Dad's last night. He forgot to send a lunch. She also wanted to tell me about her Dad's new girlfriend but she told me I wasn't  to tell mom because it's was secret.  A young man tells me his cat died last night. Another lost a tooth! Exciting until he sees the blood, thenthe fear sets in.

A child came in a little late looking afraid and tentative. She watched carefully what was going on but was too afraid to join in.  Everyone agrees that the child's fears aren't normal and that she needs some counselling but there are only so many hours in a day. They might be able to see her for one or two sessions next month. I started to head over to help her. Your daughter, wonderful child that she is, helps her put away her things and leds her to her desk. 

I was about to head over and say thank you but I notice 3 boys in the corner playing rough. I ran over to stop them and have a conversation about expected behaviour at school. I also tried to throw in a lesson on non-violence while I was at it.

I turned back to look for your daughter. I haven't forgotten that I wanted to check in with her but I look up and realise I should probably begin teaching the lesson of the day. I told myself I would check in with her later. 

This was all before 9am. Many other things  happened during the day that made it very difficult for me to check in with your wonderful daughter.  Students with learning disabilities, diagnosed and not diagnosed. Students with special needs and with behaviour problems. Students who are needier or put up their hand more often. Students who yell louder.

I realised after a day of running from child to child and crisis to crisis, I never did get a chance to check-in with her today. I don't mean to leave your daughter alone but she seems to be doing just fine without me. I hope it is true. I'm sorry. I feel terrible. Would you mind telling her how proud I am of her? Let her know I appreciate her? I will check-in with her tomorrow.

From Your Child's Teacher

Authors Note:

I have 23 little treasures in my room. I care about them all. I want to teach them all and see them all succeed. I've had more days like this one than I would like to admit. When I think about a classroom without class limits or I think about a school system with even less specialist teachers and less services for our students, I worry. I wonder how many average kids go unseen everyday. I honestly don't think I can do this job under those conditions. Somedays I wonder how I do it now.  I know for a fact I won't be able to do it well.  

Please, please please understand how important this issue is.  I didn't become a teacher for the paycheck or the glory. I became a teacher because I wanted to help kids do amazing things with their lives.  I want that for all my students. I want to do my job well. That means that I need the tools to do that. This includes a reasonable class size and help from specialist teachers. That is why I'm willing to take a 10% pay cut and walk out inspite of the threats. For me isn't about the money. Its about the kids.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Using thought bubbles and speech bubbles to teach predicting.

We had a happy accident happen in Mme Hawtree's grade 1 class this week.  We have special guest come and speak to us about our feelings and thought and the words that we say. She used thought bubbles and speech bubbles to show the difference between the things we say and the things we think.

Later that day in science we were talking about predicting.  I asked the students to pick 3 items in the classroom and predict if they would roll or slide or do both. After they had made their prediction they were suppose to test the item and then record their prediction and what actually happened in their science journals.

One of my bright stars had a suggestion... "We could use thought bubbles for what we think will happen and speech bubbles to show what actually happened!"  Many of my students ran with this idea.  It became very clear for me and the student what was their guess and what was their prediction.

Using bubbles to show thinking
Predicting is often a tricky topic to teach in grade 1. Students have a difficult time sorting between I THINK and I KNOW.  The little perfectionists in my room are often on the hunt for erasers so that they can change their prediction to the correct answer. Using thought bubbles and speech bubbles seemed to help this a problem. Students were okay with thinking the wrong thing.... after all it was just a thought and not voiced yet. The really important thing, the thing they would say out loud was the right answer in the speech bubble.
Using Venn diagram to show thinking

What did I learn at school today?  My students continue to surprise me with their ideas and suggestions. I love the idea of using thought bubbles to show our predictions and speech bubbles to show our findings. I am thinking of  using this in math and in reading as well. What about you? How do you teach predicting? Have you ever had a student teach you a better way to teach something? Do you already use speech bubbles and thought bubbles?

Some resources:

Enchanted learning thought bubbles, speech bubbles
Speech bubble writing paper