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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Scariest Thing

While we don’t celebrate holidays at our school, or allow the kids to come in costume, the room is always abuzz towards the end of October with talk of the upcoming candy extravaganza that is Halloween. From my lunchtime conversation with a group of kids one year, I learned that we had a Miss America, a Hermione Granger, and one Generalized Embodiment of Scariness that included fake, squirting blood.
  “It’s probably the scariest thing I’ve ever been for Halloween” Tristan informed me as he finished his peanut butter sandwich. His seriousness implied that this was really saying something - that in all of his seven Halloweens since birth, he had donned some rather frighting costumes and that this year's was scarier than even the ones he wore as a baby or a toddler--if you can believe it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Am Very Fancy Today

For Friday, I have to finish planning out the math lesson and plan what the student teacher will help out with at literacy centers. There's the plan for what activity to do at morning meeting as well as one other important plan: what to wear for picture day. I always put serious thought and consideration into my outfit, and will likely try on up to four different sweaters the night before--all so that twenty years from now, someone doesn't find her second grade class picture and think, "My teacher was a terrible, terrible dresser."

I suspect that there will be many second graders also giving extra careful consideration to their appearance on Friday. Clothes make a statement, even in elementary school. Sometimes that statement is simply, “I LOVE YELLOW!” Other times it’s “BATMAN IS MY IDOL” or “I ATE CHOCOLATE PUDDING FOR LUNCH.” When I was in the third grade, I picked out my most special outfit for picture day to project just the right image. This special outfit consisted of not just one, but two shades of pink, a combination achieved via a dark pink turtleneck under a short-sleeved, ruffled, light pink dress. White sneakers and white socks pulled up to my knees made the outfit extra special. And of course, no outfit is complete without rainbow shoelaces. Clearly the statement I wanted to make on picture day was, “I AM FANTASTIC.” And yes, if you're wondering, that is a banana clip in my hair.

I'm expecting many statements to walk through the classroom door on picture day. There will be suit coats, pouffy dresses, new hairdos, and even clip-on ties that all will scream, "I AM VERY FANCY TODAY." Fancy clothes are particularly appealing in a scaled-down size. It's also entertaining to see the children doing very kid things in very businessperson clothes. You might almost mistake the classroom for a board meeting...until you notice that one of the board members is sitting on his knees, with his tush in the air as he finalizes the details of the meeting agenda.

The poses on picture day also contribute to the statement. Some of the picture packages such Option 4-Barnyard Background even come with props on which to pose. The statement that Da'Mon made in his pint-sized three-piece suit one year was, “I AM ON MY WAY TO A RATHER IMPORTANT ENGAGEMENT JUST AS SOON AS I REST MY ARM AWKWARDLY ON THIS WOODEN FENCE FOR A MINUTE.”

With or without the wooden fence, I'm sure that picture day will bring lots of sharp little outfits!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Principal Pencils

If you've ever wondered how to identify a principal from among a crowd of people, Sam had this litmus test this morning: the fanciness of the person's pencil. A rather high-tech pencil had been left behind in our classroom after yesterday's teacher workshop. Sam found it and immediately labeled it as too fancy to belong to a second grader. It was mechanical after all. I mean, second graders do lose dozens of pencils a day, break or rip off erasers, and sometimes have paint-covered hands after art class.
  Clearly a pencil of this caliber would not last ten minutes in the hands of a student. It must belong to a grown-up. Further, it apparently seemed a little too fancy, even, for a teacher. I'm not sure what level of pencil I'm at as a teacher, but perhaps one that's somewhat but not too fancy - a hologram print, let's say, or a pseudo-mechanical one with the seven or eight very small leads that you remove when dull and then put back into the pencil from the end, pushing a sharp very small lead to the top. Or maybe teachers are known for their comically oversized pencils like the one I got from a student one year. It made a great prop when I had to exaggeratedly write down important teacher things like science.
  But no, THIS marvel of lime-green plastic had a oval-shaped BUTTON that you press with your index finger to kick out more lead. Definitely the instrument of someone with his or her own office. He pinched it delicately between his fingers and brought it over to me. "I think this belongs to one of the principals." When I chuckled and asked him why it couldn't belong to a teacher, he referenced the oval-shaped button and its overall fancy-shcmancy-ness.

Unfortunately, Sam's pencil hierarchy theory was debunked when I happened to run into both the principal and the assistant principal in the hall, and neither was missing a fantastic green pencil. Could it possibly belong to a superintendent??



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's Jerome!

It’s important to know where your friends are at all times in elementary school—especially at recess. Should you misplace a friend at this crucial time of building and chasing and roaring, it will be very hard to build a sufficiently tall structure out of blocks, nearly impossible to chase, and everyone knows that the best roars are duets. Our playground is smaller than a classroom, but even in a compact area, a recess friend could be just out of sight behind the twisty slide or under the bridge.

The other day, Jerome came outside a few minutes after the rest of the class—but an important few minutes. While Jerome was depositing his eyeglasses safely at the front office, his friend LeRoy had managed to blend in with the recess landscape, and was nowhere to be found. The building! The chasing! Roars! Jerome needed to find LeRoy—and fast. He stood at one end of the playground, cupped his hands around his mouth, took a deep breath and tilted his head towards either the sky or the playground gods. “LE-ROY!” he bellowed, and looked around to see if his buddy had come out of hiding. No luck. Perhaps LeRoy had heard his name being shouted from over by the slide, but hadn’t recognized the source of the calls. “LE-ROY!” Jerome bellowed again into the playground air. “It’s Juh-ROME!!”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Better Than TV

The second graders are going to see a play on Thursday--Ferdinand the Bull. Hopefully it'll be as good as the year we went to see Seussical the Musical. As we were walking out of the theater that year, I overheard one second grader comment to another, "That was better than TV--don'tcha think?"

Better than TV--the highest of second grade compliments for live theater.



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tear Here

Lunch items of various descriptions have been particularly hard to open this week--Thermos caps that won't unscrew, juice pouch straws that won't poke, fruit snack pouches that won't "tear here." Often, students do not even attempt to infiltrate these impossibly secure lunch containers before seeking my assistance. The task usually requires either fingernails or brute strength. Fortunately, I possess both and thus children in my class do not starve.
  After making a valiant but ultimately failed attempt to open his own ketchup one day, Julius commented, “It should say, ‘Tear and get frustrated here!’” I try to give on-the-spot instructional demonstrations on exactly how students can free that fruit roll from its silver wrapper without me, but it is much, much faster if I just use my fingernails to perform the special little rip. Then we can all get back to our food with a minimum of frustration.
  Unfortunately, frustration is not so easily minimized when it comes to academics. Just when students are starting to think they have a pretty good grasp on the world, some completely new and different piece of knowledge is forced into their realm of consciousness and throws everything off. They’re rolling right along, getting the hang of adding and subtracting numbers, even multiplying and then all of a sudden a seven gets replaced by a slanty n. “When did letters become math?” moaned Ayeisha, head in her hands, the day we started algebra. Yes, you’re right, letters can now be math and “sh” can now be spelled with “ti.” Welcome to second grade—it’s frustrating.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lots of Milk!

The art teacher is having a baby this month! The teachers organizing her baby shower asked all of the staff to share some advice for the new mother. Seeing as I have very little expertise on being a mom, I turned this task over to the second graders who have had experience caring for little brothers and sisters. As with their marriage advice, they shared helpful tips, but also some stuff they just made up.


-When I take care of a baby, I would sit in a rocking chair and rock back and forth.
-Make sure she has a nap by 2:30 or 2:45.
-Don't overfeed it.
-This goes for when it's zero to one and a half: Give it mommy milk and don't let it eat bad food.
-Let it sleep from 11:00 to 2:00.
-You have to give the baby care so he won't be sad.
-Sing it songs. Sleep 13 hours a day. Lots of milk!
-Give it baby clothes.
-Give the baby 2 naps.
-After it gets food or milk, burp it or it is going to throw up.