I got up at 6:00 in the a.m. this morning and was out the door to Brown Elementary for my first day of student teaching by 6:35. I got there a bit too early (7:25), and the day ended at 4:25 p.m. I'm rather tired, but I'd be doing myself and this journal a disservice if I didn't write down a few hopefully not too analysis-ridden observations before making lunch for tomorrow, drawing or reading a bit and then bed.
So, first grade with Ms. L. The day started with the pledges, of course. Then a moment of silence --- despite what you might hear from lying right wingers like Ann Coulter, yes, public schools allow for a time of quiet reflection. And in this school, at least, a few children wore T-shirts with Christian messages, and no one was sent home in disgrace.
But I digress. I enjoyed Ms. L's teaching style a lot. I could learn much from her when it comes to handling the kids' tattling, verbal digressions and misbehaving --- she always focuses on the positive and seeks to stop unwanted behavior by praising appropriate behavior. She's clearly at home with the kids, and a true professional. She's also the chair of her grade and works like a goddamn banshee --- she was there before me and said when I left that she was staying until 6:00 p.m. Day-um.
I didn't much care for her insistence on the kids' writing slanted letters --- the sort of quasi-italic (little hooks at the bottoms of the lower-case i's and so on) that are meant to prepare, I suppose, for cursive. I find that approach useless and distracting, since no one actually writes like that. Not even the letter sheets they're copying from wrote like that. Still, that's a minor quibble.
I think I would also differ from Ms. L in her way of almost always calling only on those students who raise their hands. This means that about 2-5 kids are the only ones ever answering. I would prefer to see a sort of round-table or random calling for contributions to the discussion. I don't think this method would embarrass shy kids, if done correctly. To me, her way let too many kids feel confident about not paying the least attention.
Oh, listen to me, arrogant upstart, criticizing the teacher with decades of experience.
Anyhoo. Ms. L read a story and asked questions about predicting and inferring. She read poems that showcased the letters I and J. The kids practiced writing those letters. They did a worksheet about I and J and circled words that started with those letters. Another language lesson was matching color words with their colors, then writing (mostly copying) sentences like "A ______ is green."
I had a half-hour for lunch. I ate my sandwich in the teacher's lounge.
I sat in on a teacher's meeting, where a coordinator and a reading interventionist talked about DIBELS (it was new to me too) and forming intervention groups by skill level.
For math, the kids put buttons in cups (ten to a cup) plus remainder and then wrote the total number.
In all, the school seems to have a fairly high level of expectation for its first graders. There's a rather wide gap in skill levels, however. Some kids surprised me with their quite eloquent and reasoned explanations of the base-ten system and why we use it; others didn't grasp at all the correlation between groups of ten and total number.
I must say that my first day hasn't changed my opinion of public schools. This is one of the best, with terrific teachers like Ms. L, and I still found myself thinking how easy it would be for students to go years in that environment without learning much of anything.
Oh, and my old classmate who worked in the adjacent room was transferred to another school last week because of low enrollment.