Since I spend nearly every day with children, I sometimes forget how much parents want to see what it’s like between 8:05 and 3:05. I’m sure there are some that are satisfied with turning their little guys over and hearing snippets later, but I know most parents of young children truly want to see what it’s like with their own eyes. We often invite parents in to join us for morning meeting, on special projects, to read with us, to share a special talent or area of expertise, or on parent visit days. Some of the visits don’t give our visitors an accurate picture of what happens either because the social dynamics shift a bit in the presence of a parent or simply the addition of a few more bodies just make our movements and interactions just a tad bit different. On the last official parent visit day, my classroom of 17 nearly doubled in population as we went about our business of small group work with one teacher, reading groups working with me, and the balance of the class doing their work while visitors either participated with children or observed. Things buzzed and hummed almost as usual, but it still felt a bit different. Over the years, I’ve often thought that having one-way glass would be such a tremendous investment in the facility and would allow teachers, parents and visitors to objectively observe what our day looks like – undisturbed, organic, and in tact. I’ve seen day care centers on university campuses (which run research programs and/or teacher training which I imagine justify this investment) with these kind of one-way windows. How cool would that be to look through a window and see your child in their classroom setting working, playing and being with friends – like wearing your own “invisibility cloak” or like watching fish inside a fishbowl? Hogwarts is fictitious and we can’t install one-way mirrors right now in my school, but here’s my attempt at a virtual fishbowl to illustrate some of what transpired this past week:
- As we gathered for morning meeting on Monday, sniffles were everywhere. We set tissues out in the middle of our circle and talked about ways to take care of yourself and help minimize the spread of germs. Before meeting was over, 9 of us had a neat piles tissues in front of us and my co-teacher was setting out additional bottles of germ gel.
- We were blessed with several warm sunny days after last week’s snow and spent some extra time outside. As we circled up and sang our gathering song, I noticed several boys crawling on the stones and one yelling, “HE LOST A TOOTH!” Within seconds, someone else jumped up victorious holding one muddy tooth. I suggested that perhaps the tooth fairy paid a premium for lost teeth that survive such hazardous conditions and I got a toothless, anticipatory grin! Later that week, the mom thanked me.
- We’ve been working hard to learn to spell high frequency words in word study and to use those in our self-generated writing pieces. After giving each child a personal word wall to keep in his/her folder, most all of them eagerly flipped through and did use them in their writing but also found that if they attempted words on their own and checked them – they were right. Score on the confidence and self-esteem!
- Tomie de Paola is a favorite author who has written much about his life and work, so we’ve been reading his biographies and a modest percentage of his 200+ picture books. This week, each reading group got one of his books to read. They know so much about his – his artistic style, the names of his family members, how to recognize text to text and text to self connections. They bubbled with excitement as they tackled new books, some of which are technically above their reading level, but their emotional attachment to Tomie de Paola and desire to read “big books” let me nudge them a bit more and let them feel safe to take risks in their reading. Remarkable, really.
- Our math has focused on geometry and several children brought quilts into share. When I asked what they noticed “in a math way” about the quilts, several use the language we had discussed, such as “vertices” and “quadrilaterals.” Our goal was to expose those words but to hear first graders apply and use those accurately was amazing.
- While washing hands, some girls decided to see how many they can fit into a stall (sort of like filling a VW bug or phone booth!) and figured out that four do fit, but then who wants that kind of audience? Two crawled out as a teacher enters and requires all to scrub hands.
- During morning meeting when I asked for a volunteer to say our prayer, one child shared about the death of his great-grandmother. The thoughtful and sensitive comments about his loss were genuine and led to discussion about other family members who had passed away. Each day the rest of the week, we remembered “loved ones in heaven” in our prayers, all offered by children.
- Heading outside the room to pack up a lockers, there is always the risk of off-task behavior, usually within normal within limits. This might include playing with key chain toys, walking down the hall to pester siblings, applying chapstick, or signing a tune with others across the hall. With some reminders and a bit of good fortune, everyone gets packed up and back in the room in time for read aloud and most everything gets put where it belongs.
- Outside on the playground equipment, a group wonders how the pole stays in the ground, and begins digging in the warm tire shreds. Digging continues over the course of two days and the primary mission is forgotten as they realize how good it feels to dig. We decide that the tire shreds keep climbers safe and that when the ground thaws a bit, we’ll find a more suitable place to dig.
- For our Valentine’s party, two moms did a fabulous job organizing four events which were kid-friendly and kept everyone engaged. I lost count, but 9 or more moms join us, along with some visitors from Australia and a few siblings who join in the fun playing Pictionary on the Smartboard. Fueled by laughter and a good snack, we pack up our overflowing bags of valentines cards (and candy!) and say good bye for the long weekend.
From inside the fishbowl, this is just a bit of what it’s like. Of course, it’s through my lens and my expereince. Every visitor will have his/her own perception, but regardless, it’s a joy and a privilege to spend the day in first grade. Talk with your child’s teacher and find a way to sneak a peek or join them inside their classroom this week. Every day, remarkable things happen with our little learners.