PART 1: First Quarter
I stand outside the door of Mrs. Shapiro’s classroom. I am reminded of the day eleven years ago when I fist saw this very door, and read “Mrs. Shapiro” to my father, when I first entered this school. I had no idea who she was at the time, and being homeschooled and unable to enter kindergarten due to my autism, it was a year later when I first went to Shay.
I wait until I am let in by Mrs. Shapiro. A child tells her that someone is there to see her. I am then welcomed in. Mrs. Shapiro introduces me to the class, half of which are happy to see me, already knowing me from the JCC daycare center, and Mrs. Nelson’s preschool class.
The students were busy at their tables, drawing pictures. In Mrs. Shapiro’s classroom, the students are divided by wooden tables. Each student’s name is printed on a colored sheet of paper that is laminated and taped onto the table, with their name on it. This is the student’s seat, and this is where the student goes to do his “seat work.” The color of each sheet of paper is different for each table, and the tables are identified with that color. For example, the table with green paper identifying the student’s names is called the “green table.” The kids’ switch their tables periodically throughout the year. Each seat has two names—the name of the child occupying that seat in the morning class, and the name for the afternoon class.
Mrs. Shapiro tells me that she has just assigned them to draw what they like to do best. Then she tells me that she plans to ask each child what their picture means so she can write it on the back of their picture, and instructs me to go to each table and do the same.
I go and find a paper and pencil, and start asking the students. Here is what some of them drew:
My swingset at home with my best friends and I on the swings.
Me and my best friend Kelly. (It is interesting to note that on the picture, the friend’s face was much larger than the face the child identified as her own.)
A soccer field and a video game set that I have done at home.
Playing in the playground.
Once the students were done drawing their pictures, free time began.
Mrs. Shapiro had announced that once the students were done with their pictures, it was free time. After I had told Mrs. Shapiro what the students at my table had told me about their pictures, Mrs. Shapiro went to a table near the easel to start what she called a “measuring activity.” In this activity, the students took objects like pencils and erasers, and put small cubed blocks (which Mrs. Shapiro referred to as “cubes”) together next to the objects until their small block towers were as tall as the objects next to them. Then they would write down how many cubes each object “measured” on a worksheet titled “Measuring.” (Example: If it took 8 cubes together to match the height of a pencil, then the pencil measured 8 cubes.)
I sat down to observe the activity. However, while she was teaching, another student, Patrick, was at his seat banging on a vibraphone. Mrs. Shapiro told me that it was bothering her, and asked me to tell him to stop.
walked to Patrick and saw that there was a “play-by-color” songbook with the vibraphone.
Each tube (or “vibe”) on the vibraphone was given a color and number, and the
songbook instructed kids how to play simple nursery rhymes on the vibraphone. I
asked Patrick if he wanted to hear me play on the xylophone. I took the mallets
from him, and played an octave to see what notes applied to each color and
number. Then I started to play “One Large Gaggle of Geese,” the
I asked Patrick if he knew what I was playing, and he did. So did students near me. He stopped me and asked me if I could play “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” I played it, and then asked him if he wanted to learn how to play the school song. He said yes, so I found a sheet of paper, and took the markers that were on the table and started to draw the color code that comprised of the notes of the school song, that Patrick could follow to play on the vibraphone. After I finished a line, I showed it to Patrick and he proved to be able to follow the colors and play the notes.
At 9:45, Patrick left to pursue another activity. But since other students wanted to try playing the school song, I kept writing the “notes” for more lines until I had finished the first verse of the song, and by then each student who wanted a turn had gotten a turn.
The bell rang by the student assigned to ring the bell to end free time, and clean-up time began. In short, I resolved a discipline issue by redirecting the child rather than telling him to stop.
Having made a mess at the table where I drew the sheet music, I cleaned my mess along with the students. After each student was done cleaning up where he or she had been, Mrs. Shapiro assigned each student to sit in their places for “row time.” This is the equivalent of the high school laboratory preschool teacher Mrs. Nelson’s “circle time,” except instead of the students sitting in circles, the students sat in rows, each at a place where, on the carpet, there was a piece of tape with their name on it, identifying where each student was to sit (like the tape on a stage in a theatre that identifies where one is to move and dance). It was now story time.
During the transition between clean-up time and story time a child threw a block at me. I told him that he was not supposed to throw things at me, and said it loudly enough so Mrs. Shapiro heard me, and she repeated what I had just said. Mrs. Shapiro then commented that in a situation like that, that is how you deal with it.
I asked Mrs. Shapiro if there were any extracurricular activities planned. She told me the kids had music, and asked if I wanted to sit in for the class. I accepted, thinking it was part of my work in the class.
I sat in the position that other kids sat—sitting what Mrs. Nelson calls “like pretzels,” where you cross your legs and sit on your bottom. It’s also called “criss-cross applesauce” or “Indian style.”
Sitting like pretzels was extremely difficult for me in kindergarten and even in the fifth grade. Whenever I sat like a pretzel for a long period of time, I started to feel a tingling in my legs as if the circulation is cut to that part of my body. It was misery. I understood the difficulties that some of the students had sitting still during the duration of story time—I had the same issue as well. Fortunately, I do not have that problem today.
I listened to Mrs. Shapiro read to her students, “My Real Tooth Fairy,” a fantasy tale about a child who tries to imagine what the tooth fairy would look like. Then she learns her mother is the tooth fairy.
After the story was over, the students commented that the story was too long. Mrs. Shapiro replied by saying that while it was a long story, it was a beautiful one. Mrs. Shapiro explained to the students who the tooth fairy was. When you lost a tooth, she would come into your house and give you some money. Then she asked the students to draw what they thought the tooth fairy would look like, like the child did in the book.
The students went back to the seats at their tables and started drawing. While the students drew, Mrs. Shapiro put two plates of animal crackers on one of the tables, which the kids could go to and eat from for snack.
I went to one of the tables, with three students drawing their pictures, and asked them what their tooth fairies looked like. Here’s what the kids answered:
My tooth fairy looks just like me.
My tooth fairy looks like my mother.
My tooth fairy looks like my father.
I asked the third student what her tooth fairy was, I felt a pat on the
shoulder from Brittany McCurdy, a student whom I had known from the
expected that response from her.
After the students were done drawing their tooth fairies, Mrs. Shapiro asked the students to sit back down in their seats in rows again. It was time for her to teach them about the letter “A.”
I sat down with the students as Mrs. Shapiro showed them collages of newspaper clippings of various objects that began with the letter “A.” Each collage consisted of glued clippings onto white construction paper, and each kid’s name was on the construction paper. This had been a past assignment Mrs. Shapiro had assigned.
Mrs. Shapiro showed each collage to the class, and asked each kid what each object was. They had to state the “A” word each object was. Mrs. Shapiro then told them about the letter A, and showed them what a capital “A” looked like and what a lower-case “a” looked like. Then she gave each kid a handwriting sheet where they were to practice writing their “A’s,” and sent them back to their seats.
While the students were writing their A’s I sat and continued writing notes about what was going on in the classroom, something I did throughout the day when I was not actively teaching or observing.
While the students were writing their A’s, Mrs. Shapiro told a child who was writing his A in cursive that while that was a good cursive A, in kindergarten you do not write in cursive. Instead, you print.
I pointed out to Mrs. Shapiro the irony of this. At Shay Elementary, while you are required to print in kindergarten you are not allowed to print in 2nd grade, and are required to write in cursive. She agreed, pointing out that this was not even the Shay method, but the Zaner-Bloser method, the handwriting method that Shay Elementary faculty were required to use, even if they didn’t agree with the details. I myself, as a kid, struggled to write in cursive yet could print just fine, and would have marks taken off my report card due to the fact that I couldn’t write in cursive but could print perfectly.
While Mrs. Shapiro was getting the students ready to sit in line, Patrick approached me and asked me how old I was. I decided I would tell him, since Mrs. Shapiro has a routine she does annually where she allows the kids to ask how old she is, I told him. He then told me that I was much younger than his parents, and told me his parent’s ages. Deciding not to draw attention to this, I told him that I was much younger than most of the parents of all of the kids in the class, and asked him to line up.
I went to get my notes. He then approached me and told me again that I was younger than my parents. I asked him to line up, and then went to the back of the line.
After the students were done with their handwriting, Mrs. Shapiro lined up her students for music time. I stood in the back of the line and we walked to Mr. Liederlassen’s room. Mr. Liederlassen is the music teacher at Shay Elementary, but he is typically called Mr. L by students as his name is often too hard for the students to say properly.
While we were walking in the hallway Mrs. Shapiro told the kids that we had to be quiet, and have a “quiet cotton” line. That is, we were to be as quite as a cotton ball falling on the floor. I had an extremely hard time being quiet as a kindergartner, and never was. Mrs. Shapiro would tell me not to, and I still would not listen. Today, however, I was quiet to show a good example to the students.
I sat behind the class, who was joined with Mrs. Veerman’s class for music, in the room. Mr. Liederlassen did not ask me why I was there. However, when I was waiting in the office for 15 minutes to be accepted into the classroom, he came to the office to see Mrs. Dickens, the secretary. He saw me and asked me why I was there, and I explained that I was completing my work as a Child Development student at Schneider.
Mrs. Veerman is the other kindergarten teacher at the school, and she teaches a morning and afternoon kindergarten class alongside Mrs. Shapiro in a neighboring classroom.
During music, Mr. Liederlassen sat down at a keyboard and started singing a scat-style song where he would sing some words and the kids would sing them back. Something in my memory enabled me to remember the very lines to these words. I knew them all by heart even though I had not heard them for over ten years; they were precisely the same songs I had learned as a Shay kindergartner.
Mr. L had to tell the students not to call out, and had to remind the students more than once that they had to raise their hand. This hit home to me; I had this problem even up to the fourth grade, and it wasn’t until the second month of the fourth grade that I remembered not to call out.
After singing the echo song, Mr. L was asked to sing the cat song. Since he had already sang it previously, he did not sing it, even though he briefly introduced it—it was the Siamese Cat song from the Disney movie “The Lady and the Tramp.”
he moved from the keyboard to the blackboard and told a comedy version of the
Then it was time to leave music. Mr. Liederlassen told me it was nice to see me again, and I told him why I was there. He then said we should talk later. I was not sure what I was supposed to do, but I realized that I had to consult Mrs. Trainor first. Like I said before, I’m going to stay in Mrs. Shapiro’s class like she said, but had thought at the time that, as a part of my work at Shay, I was supposed to get involved in the extracurricular activities as a part of my class. I did not know what the requirement was, and apologize for jumping the gun. I will back off, and obey what my teacher says. This not about what I want—and I do not need to be told this again.
After we got back to Mrs. Shapiro’s classroom from Mr. Liederlassen’s room, Mrs. Shapiro sat all the students back in their rows and started to sing nursery rhymes with them. She did this until it was time for kindergarten to end, and she told the kids they could get their things from their “cubbies,” and then we ended kindergarten by singing the same song that I sang every day when I ended kindergarten:
“Kindergarten’s over and now the day is through. Goodbye, goodbye, I’ll see you on Friday.”
After class ended, Mrs. Shapiro told me that Patrick had some issues and wanted to talk to me about them. This was evident, he was very affectionate toward me; he tried to hug me and hold my hand numerous times, unlike the other students. I replied by reminding her that I had issues as well when I was in her class. She did not mention the hugging issue, but told me Patrick had issues following directions and spent a lot of time on the vibraphone. Mrs. Shapiro then told me I did a good job for my first day and especially liked how I handled Patrick on the vibraphone with my decision to write the coding for the school song. She then suggested that the paper should be laminated and should live permanently in the classroom.
Overall, it was a very nice first day.